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Hawkeye Women's Basketball Hopes To Play Tall

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IOWA CITY, Iowa Bethany Doolittle is back at her natural position.

She'll replace Morgan Johnson in the paint. But who will replace her?

The University of Iowa women's basketball team met the media Thursday morning at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes have experience and optimism. What they don't have is an abundance of size.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge, replacing Morgan," said Doolittle, who will return to being a back-to-the-basket center after a one-year stint as a power forward. "We won't have a lot of big girls, but we've got a lot of tough girls."

The Hawkeyes return three starters from a team that compiled a 21-13 record and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. They're set on the perimeter with junior Samantha Logic at point and sophomore Melissa Dixon and senior Theairra Taylor at the wings.

Doolittle, a junior, is a quality post. But they might want to rename the position known as "power forward." Because instead of muscle, that position will be filled with lankiness and speed.

The prime candidates are sophomores Kali Peschel and Claire Till, along with freshman Ally Disterhoft, who was named Miss Iowa Basketball 2013 at Iowa City West.

"I have a little experience there, and if it means playing time, I'm willing to help in any way," Peschel said.

With Johnson and Jamie Printy graduated, the Hawkeyes lose their top two scorers from last year's team. Dixon is the top returner, at 10.1 points per game and is a prolific outside shooter, hitting 40 percent of her 3-point tries.

Now, the trick is to become a more versatile threat.

"The Game Time League (last summer) was a chance for me to develop an all-around game," Dixon said. "I want to be more capable of getting to the rim or pulling up instead of being known as just a shooter."

Logic is the reigning Big Ten leader in assists (6.4 per game) and the Hawkeyes' leading returner in rebounds (6.7 per contest). She's now the undisputed leader of this team.

"As a point guard, you always have to have that mentality, whether you're a freshman, a senior or whatever," Logic said.

The lone senior, Taylor (8.7 ppg in 2012-13) could be ready for a breakout season. She is finally 100 percent after missing 53 games throughout her career due to ACL injuries.

"She looks great in practice," said Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder, who begins her 28th season, her 14th at Iowa. "She's one of Sam's favorite targets on the fast break. We expect her to elevate her production this year."

"It's been bittersweet," Taylor said of her collegiate career. "But I really think I'm going to go out with a bang."

That leaves the inside game.

Doolittle stands 6-foot-4. So is Nicole Smith, but she only played 12 minutes last season as a freshman.

"We don't have significant height behind Bethany, but we have players that can play that position, and I believe that we can change our style to fit what we have," Bluder said.

"I think we can adjust our offenses and defenses to accommodate for our lack of height."

Logic said, "We're a team that could have all of the (perimeter) players get five, six, seven rebounds a game. And if we do that, that will be even better than having a big girl that gets 10 or 11.

"We're going to rely on our chemistry, and we're going to rely on our scrappiness. We're going to fight for everything we get."

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