Bluder's Bunch Readies for Another Mountain

Feb. 25, 2007

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IOWA CITY — Lisa Bluder probably didn’t know it when the season started, but she knows it now: Iowa’s head coach, her coaching staff and her young team is becoming skilled at climbing mountains.

Whether it’s the loss of a senior to injury during the summer, the loss of the Big Ten’s 2006 Freshman of the Year midway through the league season, or clawing back from double-digit deficits to claim a victory, Bluder’s Bunch of 2007 is experienced at tackling obstacles.

The most recent to be tossed in front of the Hawkeyes is the 2007 Big Ten Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament to be staged later this week at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Guess who is Iowa’s first round opponent? None other than one of the “home teams” – the Indiana Hoosiers. Bluder and the Hawkeyes will travel to Indy knowing they have history on their side: Iowa is 2-1 in Big Ten Tournament games against the Indiana, a mark that includes a 19-point second half comeback in a quarterfinal game in the 2001 get-together.

The Hawkeyes will also hit the road knowing that (a) they can beat the Hoosiers and (b) they can beat the Hoosiers on the road. Iowa accomplished both in the teams’ only meeting, a 71-67 Hawkeye victory back in IU’s Assembly Hall back on Jan. 11. The victory was Iowa’s third Big Ten road win.

The Hawkeyes are the tournament’s No. 8 seed – the lowest starting point for the Iowa and Bluder since the 2003 event when Iowa reached the semi-final round despite having started at the No. 7 seed. Only one No. 8 seed in the history of the tournament – Indiana in 1997 – has advanced as far as the semi-finals.

And, as if the mountain wasn’t steep enough already, what awaits the Hawkeyes after a victory over the Hoosiers? The Big Ten regular season champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

Iowa played the Buckeyes tough in their Big Ten home opener back on Dec. 31, coming up on the short end of a 73-67 score. Ohio State had its way with Iowa in Columbus on Feb. 4, but that game was played 24 hours after UI sophomore Megan Skouby was sent to the sidelines with an injured finger on her non-shooting hand.

The silver lining in that assignment, should it come to pass? The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes have met only once in Big Ten Tournament action – a 72-54 win by Iowa in 1998.