IOWA CITY — Morgan Johnson has the size. Rachel Sheffer has the speed.
And that makes for an intriguing battle in the paint when the Iowa Hawkeyes visit Michigan for a key Big Ten women’s basketball game Thursday night.
Tipoff is 7 p.m. (Iowa time) at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“It’s going to be a new challenge for me, but I’m going to embrace the challenge,” Johnson said Wednesday. ”I need to use my height to my advantage and try to counter her speed with my size.”
With Jaime Printy sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, Johnson — a 6-foot-5 junior post — has emerged as the Hawkeyes’ leader, both in scoring (15.0 points per game) and energy.
The Hawkeyes (16-10 overall, 8-5 Big Ten) have won five straight games and face Michigan (18-7, 7-5) twice in the final three games. The Wolverines visit Iowa City on Feb. 26.
Michigan apparently has broken its annual habit of starting strong and fizzling late.
“I don’t know if it’s the best Michigan team (since I’ve been at Iowa), but it’s certainly one of the best ones that are playing well at the end of the year,” said Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder.
Fifth place in the Big Ten is at stake Thursday. And though Iowa has made a strong push into contention for a fifth straight NCAA tournament bid, work remains. The Hawkeyes’ RPI is 50.
Johnson owns a four-inch height advantage over the 6-1 Scheffer, UM’s leading scorer at 13.3 points per game.
“She’s only 6-1, so she’s not truly a true back-to-the-basket post,” Bluder said. “She shoots (3-pointers) at a very good rate. She can drive from outside and could create some defensive problems for Morgan.”
Johnson said, “I’m going to need to focus on closing out. I’ve had to play defense on the perimeter before, so I’ll draw on those experiences to help me against Michigan.”
Iowa’s Samantha Logic is the reigning Big Ten freshman of the week and shared overall player-of-the week honors. Logic registered 17 points and 13 rebounds in the Hawkeyes’ 74-57 win over Michigan State on Sunday, after tying a season-high 20 against Minnesota last Thursday.
“My teammates, especially the seniors, have been good for helping me when I’ve struggled,” Logic said.
“We’ve learned to take games here lately. In the Big Ten, nobody’s going to give you the game.”
IOWA (16-10, 8-5) at MICHIGAN (18-7, 7-5)
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Tipoff: 7 p.m. Thursday
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: KXIC-AM (800), KMJM-AM (1360)
Notable: Iowa leads the series 41-14, but Michigan has won three straight. It’s the first of two games between the teams; they play at Iowa City Feb. 26. Samantha Logic is the Big Ten freshman of the week and co-player of the week. Morgan Johnson leads the active Hawkeyes in scoring at 15.0 points per game. Michigan counters with Rachel Sheffer at 13.3 points per game.
Next up for Iowa: At Northwestern, Feb. 23.
|BIG TEN STANDINGS||Conf.||All|
Iowa at Michigan, 7 p.m.
Penn State at Purdue, 5 p.m.
Indiana at Ohio State, 6 p.m.
Illinois at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Northwestern at Nebraska, 7 p.m.
Michigan State at Wisconsin, 7 p.m.