The Iowa women's dream of winning it's first Big Ten Tournament title since 2001 came to an abrupt end on Saturday night when the Hawkeyes fell, 80-73, in the semifinals at Canseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Iowa held a 17-point lead in the first half, but it dwindled to three at the intermission and turned to a double-digit deficit in the final five minutes of the contest.
In addition to losing a tough game, the likely NCAA Hawkeyes watched star Johanna Solverson crumble to the floor with an apparent knee injury in the second half. The sixth-year senior, who missed two seasons with two separate ACL tears to the knee, returned to the bench but did not come back in the game.
Junior Kristi Smith paced Iowa with 19 points and seven assists, but the point guard shot just 6 of 15 from the floor and committed five turnovers. Solverson contributed 16 points and nine rebounds, while teammate Stacy Schlapkohl chipped in with 15 and six.
Iowa (21-10) shot 49.1 percent from the floor and won the rebounding battle, 36-34, but the Boilermakers held a 16-10 advantage on the offensive glass. The Hawkeyes also turned the ball over 19 times to Purdue's six.
"The box-outs and turnovers were the key," Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. "We shot well enough to win, but defensively, we didn't execute well enough to win."
Keshia Mosley gave Iowa fits inside as she came off the bench to score 18 points and grab seven rebounds in 23 minutes for the Boilermakers (17-14). Purdue connected on 25 of 37 free throws, while the Hawkeyes shot 13 of 17.
"This helps remind us about keeping our composure," Bluder said. "When you play in a physical game like today's, it helps to prepare you for the (NCAA) tournament. March Madness means a new beginning. It's a new life."
-Saturday marked the sixth time the Hawkeyes reached the tournament semifinals. Iowa fell to 2-4 in semifinal games, competing against Purdue four of the six contests (0-4). Purdue improved to 10-1 in semifinal games.
-This was the fifth time Iowa and Purdue played in the Big Ten Tournament (1-4). The fifth meeting is the most against any other Big Ten opponent in a conference tournament contest (Indiana and Northwestern four times). Iowa fell to 13-12 in Big Ten Tournament contests, while Purdue improved to 27-7.
-Iowa fell to 2-4 when allowing 70 points or more. The Hawkeyes let a 17-point first-half lead slip away -- its biggest lead in a loss this season (16 points at Michigan State). The Hawkeyes allowed 80 points tonight, which is a season high for a Hawkeye opponent this season (78 by Wisconsin).
-Iowa made eight 3-pointers, upping its season total to 188, which is the second-most by an Iowa team in history (199 during the 1999-00 season). Iowa shot 44.4 percent (8-18) from long distance tonight, which marks the 16th time this season Iowa shot better than 40%.
-Purdue converted 25-37 (.676) from the free throw line tonight. The 25 free throws made and 37 attempted are season highs for an Iowa opponent. Iowa only made it to the charity stripe 17 times, making 13 (.765).
-Smith raised her career total to 1,016 points. She is the third Hawkeye this season to reach the 1,000 point mark (Solverson, Skouby) and 25th overall. Smith has led the Hawkeyes in scoring a team-best 12 times this season. She also dished out a game-high seven assists.
-The Hawkeyes began the game on a 26-9 run, including scoring 11 straight points in a stretch, in the first 11:00 of the game. Purdue went on a 16-3 run to close the score within two (31-29).
-Iowa made 11 of their first 17 field goal attempts (64.7%). The Hawkeyes shot 59.1% (13-22) in the first 20 minutes and 49.1% (26-53) for the game. The Hawkeyes led 38-35 at half. Iowa fell to 121-16 when leading at the half in eight years under Coach Bluder. This marks only the fourth time this season we have loss after leading in the first half (18-4).
-Purdue had eight steal to zero for Iowa in the first half. The Boilermakers finished the contest with 12 steals to Iowa's zero and forced 19 Hawkeye turnovers. Purdue scored 25 points off Iowa's miscues.
-The Boilermakers tallied 42 paint points tonight to Iowa's 30.
-Iowa out-rebounded the Boilermakers by two (36-34). However, the Hawkeyes allowed 16 offensive rebounds. Purdue scored 16 points on second chance opportunities.
-After Iowa led the entire game, Purdue took their first lead at the 13:13 mark in the second half (52-51).
-Iowa led by three (62-59) with 8:21 left. The Hawkeyes didn't score another field goal until the 46 second mark (Wendy Ausdemore 3-pointer).
-Jenee Graham tied a season high eight points (Wisconsin). Graham was 3-7 from the field, including 1-1 from the 3-point range. The triple was the first of her career in 12 tries.
-Graham and JoAnn Hamlin fouled out. As a team, the Hawkeyes were whistled for a season-high 27 fouls (26 vs. Wisconsin).
-Purdue now leads the all-time series, 30-24, winning 11 of the last 13 games against the Black and Gold.
-Iowa lost its first game as a No. 2 seed at the Big Ten Tournament tonight, winning the previous four (4-1).
-Iowa falls to 6-4 in games played on the Big Ten Network.