Hawkeye women hope for a faster Big Ten start

Iowa kicks off league season vs. Ohio State, seeking cure for perennial January blahs

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IOWA CITY -- It's been a while since the Iowa Hawkeyes entered the Big Ten women's basketball season this hot. Or this healthy.

The Hawkeyes open league play Thursday night against Ohio State (5:30 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Big Ten Network) on a six-game winning streak, scoring 80-plus points in their last four outings.

"Things have really clicked for us lately," said senior post Morgan Johnson. "We're moving the ball and making the easy pass. We're letting the game come to us."

The last few years have been a women's basketball rendition of Groundhog Day.

The familiar script: Iowa enters the Big Ten season with an injury-riddled roster, staggers through January, the flips on the switch. The Hawkeyes have started 2-3, 1-3, 1-6, 3-4 and 3-5 in league play through the last five years, then recovered each time to make the NCAA Tournament.

Last year, they won their last eight Big Ten games to earn a second-place tie.

"I do feel (like we're equipped for a better start this season)," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. We haven't had any major injuries this year -- knock on wood that continues.

"We can all see how impressive Jaime Printy has played for us lately.  I think we just have an unbelievable trio with Jaime, Morgan Johnson and Sam Logic. I do think the schedule kind of allows us to start the Big Ten season on a positive note, just having the home games, our first road game at Wisconsin, a place we've been fairly successful."

Iowa (11-3) hosts Michigan on Sunday.

As always, Ohio State (10-3) will be a major pain, even with nemesis Samantha Prahalis graduated. The Buckeyes have beaten Iowa 16 of the last 18 meetings.

Tayler Hill leads the Buckeyes at 19.4 points per game.

"She's a great player," said Printy, who posted a career-high 33 points in the Hawkeyes' 83-73 win over San Diego in the Surf-N-Slam Classic final on Sunday. "We've got to keep her under control and know where she is at all times."

The Hawkeyes have started receiving a few votes in the Associated Press poll. They were hoping for more.

"You look at the rankings, and it's a little disappointing not to see yourselves in there," Johnson said. "It makes you look inside yourselves, and we know we're more capable than what we're getting credit."

OHIO STATE (10-3, 0-0) at IOWA (11-3, 0-0)

Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City

Tipoff: 5:30 p.m. Thursday

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WMT-AM (600), KXIC-AM (800)

Notes: Seniors Morgan Johnson and Jaime Printy continue to lead the Hawkeyes at 18.0 and 14.3 points per game. The first 750 fans will receive a Jaime Printy bobblehead. The Buckeyes have won 16 of the last 18 meetings in this series.

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