Iowa assistant coach Jan Jensen referred to senior Morgan Johnson and sophomore Bethany Doolittle as the “twin towers” Wednesday.
The improvements made by the 6-foot-4 Doolittle have convinced Iowa coach Lisa Bluder to put her on the court with the 6-foot-5 Johnson.
“She’s going to be a big impact player for us,” Bluder said of Doolittle. “She really is a different player now than she was last year.”
It is a bit of a departure for a program that has made the NCAA Tournament five straight seasons by being one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the Big Ten.
“Well, we haven’t had the ability to do that in awhile, now we can,” Bluder said. “We are just working with it now to experiment with Bethany and Morgan on the block.”
Bluder called Johnson one of the top posts in the country. As a junior she averaged 14.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and had 70 blocked shots while shooting 54.9 percent.
On track for medical school, Johnson won’t play basketball after college.
“As a senior, the last time I ever play structured basketball, there’s nothing I can hold back now,” Johnson said. “Everything full blown on the floor. Leave it all on the table.”
Jensen loves having Johnson show Doolittle — as well as freshmen posts Nicole Smith and Kayla Timmerman — how to be an all-Big Ten center.
“I tell them to watch her all the time,” Jensen said. “I tell them to watch her go get a drink. Everything she does. Watch how she does it all, how she handles herself.”
Last season, Doolittle only came in when Johnson needed a rest or got into foul trouble. She averaged 3.7 points and 1.8 rebounds in about 12 minutes of play per game.
“Having me and Morgan in at the same time, we’re working on posting high-low,” Doolittle said. “It’s kind of unstoppable having two taller girls in there at the same time.”
Bluder likes the potential mismatches they can create.
“If they put the second post on Bethany, she’s going to have the advantage,” Johnson said. “She’s a very, very strong, capable post.
“It’s a different look that we have.”
Of course, Iowa — 19-12 last season — isn’t going to re-invent the wheel, either. Expect more of the 4-out offense that has helped the Hawkeyes finish third or better in the Big Ten each of the past five seasons.
“That’s who we are,” Bluder said. “We love the 3-point shot.”
Iowa lost more than half of its 3-point scoring (54.2 percent) to graduation. Moving forward, a lot rests on leading scorer Jaime Printy, who is working back from ACL surgery she had in February.
“I think I’ll be ready to go the first game,” Printy said. “One of the first things I could do was just start working back into shooting.”
Printy — despite missing the final eight games last season — still ranks fourth on the all-time Hawkeye 3-point chart. Sophomore Melissa Dixon made 35 last season, starting the final eight games.
“We have Kali Peschel coming in, me and Dixon, there’s some other shooters, I think we’ll be fine,” Printy said. “We’ll still be a 3-point shooting team.”
Samantha Logic returns after a strong freshman season when she averaged 9.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. She moved to point guard full time after Printy got injured.
“I was more comfortable there,” Logic said. “The coaches made great choices and it all came together at the end.”
Junior Theairra Taylor is a big X-factor for the Hawkeyes. Now two years removed from her third ACL surgery, the 5-foot-6 guard could be an impact player with more time on the court.
“Sometimes you feel you get those spot minutes, you mess up, you get a little tight, so you don’t take any chances or risks,” Taylor said. “When you have the comfortibility, you take more chances, and you have more fun, too.”
The University of Iowa hosts first and second rounds in the NCAA Tournament in March, so a sixth-straight NCAA berth looms even larger for the Hawkeyes.
“Having to play at other places has shown me how much an advantage it is to have that home crowd,” Johnson said. “I can’t wait for the opportunity to play in the NCAA here.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball