The Tie-Breaker

Feb. 26, 2006

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“You have to go there thinking you’re going to win. Everyone does that. You can’t go in afraid,” Jan Jensen said without a blink of an eye during an interview with the Hawkeye Radio Network after Iowa’s season-ending victory over Indiana, a win that secured the Iowa Hawkeyes the fifth seed in the 2006 Big Ten Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament to be played next week in Indianapolis.

“We had two great games with Michigan State. The coaching staff knows our team can play with them and our student-athletes know they can. And I think we can play with the Ohio State’s and Purdue’s as well. We’ve already proven that.”

First things first, coach. By virtue of its 78-70 victory Sunday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena over the Hoosiers, Iowa bested IU in the battle for fifth place in the Big Ten’s regular season standings and the all-important first-round bye in Indianapolis. Bluder’s Bunch overcame injury and inexperience to finish the 2006 league season at 10-6 and 17-10 overall.

Bluder’s Bunch will square off against Michigan State Friday in second round action of the 2006 Big Ten Confernece Women’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis.

So, instead of having to suit up on Thursday against Michigan – a team that went winless in the Big Ten – Iowa earned a day off and will square off against Michigan State in Game 2 of the first session of action on Friday. Tipoff will likely be about 1:10 p.m. Iowa time.

Michigan State finished the regular season tied with Minnesota for third place in the Big Ten with 11-5 records. The Spartans completed the regular season 21-8 overall and among the nationally ranked.

The Hawkeyes split their season series with the Spartans, winning by a 75-64 score in Iowa City on Jan. 9 when the defending Big Ten champions and 2005 NCAA Tournament runner-ups were ranked No. 9 in the nation. Iowa was powered by a 27-point performance by freshman center Megan Skouby.

Iowa came up a field goal short in the return game in East Lansing, Mich., falling 73-71 when Wendy Ausdemore’s three-pointer with a second left to play bounced off the front of the rim.

“I think we win that game by four or five points if we box out,” Jensen said, noting that Iowa was outrebounded 46-33 by the home team. Tiffany Reedy paced Iowa with 20 points. Crystal Smith added 19 and Skouby 17.

“What concerns you the most about State is that they’ve been there. They’ve won conference championships, they’ve played in the championship game. They’ve felt and dealt with the pressure,” Jensen said.

“But, what the heck. We’ve proven we can play with them on our court and on their court. Now, we have the opportunity to play them on a neutral court. So, let’s just go play.”

Iowa routed Michigan in first-round action of the 2005 Big Ten Tournament then lost a heartbreaker, 68-66, to Penn State

Michigan State – the No. 2 seed in last year’s Big Ten Tournament – defeated Illinois, Penn State and Minnesota to win the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA’s post-season party. The Spartans used that momentum to make a run to the national championship game where it lost to Baylor.

Iowa was snubbed by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. It rattled off three wins in last year’s NIT before having its season come to a close. A berth in this year’s NCAA “Dance” might hang in the balance for the Hawkeyes on Friday as well.

“17 wins, 10 conference wins, no ‘bad’ losses, a fifth-place finish in the league. I’d like to think we’ve proven ourselves worthy of an at-large bid and that the Big Ten is a conference worthy of at least five berths,” Jensen noted before adding with a grin.

“The team that wins it all in Indy doesn’t need to worry about all that…so let’s just go win the thing.”