MIAMI, Fla. — For as gut-wrenching as Friday’s buzzer-beating loss at Florida International was, the University of Iowa women’s basketball team ridded itself of the bad taste with a 79-70 victory over No. 12 West Virginia on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Century Bank Arena in Miami.
“We needed to win a close one down the stretch after letting the FIU game get away from us,” said UI head coach Lisa Bluder. “We thought this would be a great opportunity, playing on a neutral court, and we wanted to take advantage of it. It is a huge win for us confidence-wise.”
After trailing 32-25 at the half, the Hawkeyes outscored the Mountaineers, 54-38, in the second half to rally for the nine-point victory. The key to the comeback and win was the Hawkeyes’ record-breaking performance at the charity stripe.
Iowa made 42-of-50 free throw attempts for the game, including 18 straight to close out the contest. The 42 makes are a Big Ten and school record, while the 50 attempts are also a school record.
“Thank goodness for the free throw line,” Bluder said. “... and the remarkable performance by Jaime Printy, going 17-of-17.”
Printy is the third player in Big Ten history to go 17-of-17 from the free throw stripe, matching the single game free throw performance in conference history with Wisconsin’s Michele Kozelka (1989) and Keisha Anderson (1996).
The 17 makes tie the Iowa record and are the second most made free throws in Big Ten history. Printy’s performance marks the ninth time in school history that an Iowa player has been perfect from the charity stripe (minimum of 10 attempts) — Printy has three of those performances.
“It feels great to come away with a win against a top-15 team like West Virginia,” Printy said. “There were a lot of fouls, on both sides, called tonight and we were able to convert from the line. I was fortunate to get to the line a lot and my shot from the free throw line felt great.”
Trailing 50-41 with 11:32 left, Iowa used an 11-2 spurt to tie the game at 52. Sophomore Samantha Logic opened the run with a pair of free throws to make the score 50-43, and a three-point play by Printy cut the deficit to six (52-46) with 10:23 remaining.
Freshman Claire Till followed with two free throws at the nine-minute mark to trim the margin to four and senior Trisha Nesbitt’s 3-pointer made the score 52-51 just before the under-eight media timeout. Logic then made 1-of-2 free throws with 7:13 to play to even the tally at 52.
“Trisha’s 3 was big for us,” Bluder said. “We only make one 3 tonight, and Trisha hits it. I thought she played good defense for us as well.”
After three ties and eight lead changes, the Hawkeyes regained the advantage for good at 61-60 on a Morgan Johnson’s layup with 3:37 to play. Iowa made all 16 of its free throw attempts in the final 2:27, including eight straight by Printy over the final 45 seconds.
The Hawkeyes shot 46.2 (18-of-39) percent from the field and made 1-of-5 attempts from long range in the game. Printy and Johnson both netted 19 points in the win. Printy was 1-of-3 from the field and 17-of-17 from the free throw stripe; Johnson was 6-of-11 from the floor and 7-of-11 from the line.
Sophomore Bethany Doolittle was the third Iowa player in double digits, finishing with a career-best 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with six rebounds.
West Virginia had 33 more field goal attempts than Iowa, finishing 21-of-72 (29.2 percent) for the game. The Mountaineers were 6-of-28 from long range and made 22-of-29 free throws.
The Mountaineers are the highest ranked team Iowa has defeated since knocking off 10th-ranked Michigan State on Jan. 27, 2011. It is the 14th time the Hawkeyes have beaten a top-15 opponent under Bluder.
Doolittle got the Hawkeyes off to a strong start, scoring seven of the team’s first 12 points, as Iowa led 12-6 through the first seven minutes. After the Mountaineers closed the gap to 12-10 at the 11:19 mark, the Hawkeyes used a 7-2 spurt to push the advantage to 19-12 with eight minutes left in the half. Five of the seven points came from the charity stripe.
The Mountaineers fought back to even the score at 21 with 5:32 left in the half before scoring 11 of the final 15 points to take a 32-25 lead into the break.
West Virginia used 11 offensive rebounds over the first 20 minutes to build a 16 shot attempt advantage. The Mountaineers made 9-of-33 field goal attempts (27.3) percent. The Hawkeyes kept the game close by sinking 15-of-20 first half free throws.
The Hawkeyes (5-2) return to action Wednesday in Tallahassee, Fla., facing Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“Coming off this win, they (the players) can do anything if they set their minds to it,” Bluder said. “We have two days to get ready for Florida State.”