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Spartans look to down Hawkeyes second time this season

January 26, 2011

The Spartans blew an eight-point lead with two minutes left in the game. That was going to be the story the last time the No. 10 MSU women’s basketball team and No. 18 Iowa squared off Jan. 13 at Breslin Center.

Hawkeyes guard Kamille Wahlin had just come off a screen and buried a 3-pointer that tied the game at 60 with only 10 seconds left. The Spartans were depleted. They couldn’t stop Iowa in the final minutes and they knew they were in trouble if the game went to overtime.

Then senior forward Kalisha Keane, who had played for all 39:50 minutes of the game at that point, ignited life back into the deflated team. She hit a 3-pointer in the corner with half a second remaining on the clock. The final score was 63-60, no extra time, Spartans won.

“(This game) is really challenging because they’re such a good team,” Keane said. “The way that we did win down here I know they’re going to be really fired up to beat us. It’s going to be a great game.”

It took a heroic effort by Keane to beat Iowa at Breslin and now the Spartans (18-2 overall, 6-1 Big Ten) must travel to the Hawkeyes’ (15-5, 3-4) home turf for what should be another all-out war.

“It’s going to be a challenge down there,” MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said. “I’m sure they’re going to look for revenge.”

If the Spartans want to escape Iowa City with a win, they have to prevent the Hawkeyes from getting easy looks. The Hawkeyes hold four of the top-30 scorers in the league and each of them is averaging at least 10 points on the season.

“I don’t think we did a great job stopping them for 40 minutes (last game),” Merchant said. “I’m not sure you can. But we’re going to take a look at the last film and evaluate and give it our best shot.”

One player the Spartans must zone in on is Hawkeyes guard Jamie Printy, who likely is itching for some payback. She is one of the best players in the conference this season, averaging 16 points and shooting 90 percent from the charity stripe.

After scoring 18 first-half points the last time these teams met, she was held to only five for the final period. However, her baskets all seemed to come at crucial times when the Hawkeyes were searching for a way to stay in the game.

“Great players can find ways to score,” Merchant said. “They’re never shut down and I think (Printy) is one of those. I think she’s a first-team, All-Conference player and they got a few of them.”

Senior guard Brittney Thomas said one reason Printy was able to go on a scoring spree was because Thomas got into foul trouble early. When she sat out is when Printy did most of her damage.

The only clear edge the Spartans might hold right now is rebounding, however the Hawkeyes are right behind them. The two teams rank first and second in the conference in rebounding margin, with MSU outrebounding teams by 8.8 and Iowa by 5.8.

“(Junior forward Lykendra Johnson) is going to have her work cut out for her with Morgan Johnson,” Keane said. “And I think they’re going to have their hands full with our team as well. Whoever wants it more I think will win that battle (on the boards).”

Both Keane and senior guard Brittney Thomas are 0-2 in their careers at Iowa, maybe that’s why Thomas has distaste for Carver Hawkeye Arena.

“Iowa is a gym that I particularly don’t like,” Thomas said. “It’s really dark and dreary and kind of depressing. My history there hasn’t been really good so I’m ready to get a win in that stinkin’ arena. I probably think it’s depressing because we haven’t won there.”

Although the last game provided a thrilling ending that will live forever with the 2010-11 Spartan team and each fan in attendance that night, Merchant said she’d rather the team not be in that situation again.

“I thought they did a better job than we did (down the stretch),” Merchant said. “We had a lead down the stretch and we kind of lost that. We were able to win it with a heroic shot there. It didn’t really need to get to that point.”

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