Bluder: 'Focused' Hawkeyes to Entertain Western Illinois

Dec. 18, 2007

IOWA CITY – Lisa Bluder said Tuesday her University of Iowa women’s basketball team is feeling good about itself. And, she, too, is feeling good about the 2007-08 Hawkeyes.

“I sense a good feeling among our team. We feel good about ourselves and where we’re heading,” said Iowa’s veteran head coach, who is busy preparing her team for its final non-conference date of the season, a 4 p.m. game with Western Illinois Saturday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa has won six of its first 10 games. All four losses have come against teams ranked in the nation’s Top 25 in RPI.

“Are we happy about our record? No, of course not. But, do we feel good about ourselves and what we have in front of us? Most certainly,” said Bluder.

“I think we’ve proven that we can compete with the best. Now it’s time to take that next step. And, it’s a step I believe we’re capable of taking.”
Lisa Bluder

“I think we’ve proven that we can compete with the best. Now it’s time to take that next step. And, it’s a step I believe we’re capable of taking.”

Iowa has been idle – competitively – since its 54-50 loss to nationally ranked Wyoming in the championship game of the 2007 KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Challenge on Dec. 9. However, the Hawkeyes have been anything but idle off the court. They’ve spent a considerable amount of time working on strength and conditioning and, of course, tackling final exams.

“I’ve been very, very impressed with our focus. We’ve worked a great deal on our strength and conditioning in addition to some basketball stuff,” said Bluder.

The latter included some “tweaking” to its zone defense and a fair amount of work on its offense. Bluder likes what she’s seen thus far on the defensive end. And, despite a drop in productivity year-over-year – Iowa averaged 67.8 points a game a year ago and is averaging 62 points per contest so far this season – she isn’t overly concerned about her team’s ability to put points on the board.

“I’d be more concerned if we didn’t have a history of being able to score. I know we can score,” she said.

“I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made on the defensive end of the floor and in rebounding. Our toughest competition is ahead of us and we’re going to need to play good defense and rebound well to win games in our conference, so it’s a positive to see improvement in those areas.”

The Hawkeyes and Western Illinois share three common opponents: Drake, Northern Iowa and Northern Illinois. Iowa is 3-0 against that group; WIU 0-3. But don’t get the impression that Saturday’s outcome is a certainty.

The Westerwinds offer a balanced offense led by point guard Gina Hugelier, who is averaging 10.4 points per game, and center Stephanie Lovingood, who adds another 10 while leading the team with 8.7 rebounds per contest. Forward Katy Davenport chips in 9.9 points a contest and forward Jordon O’Brien another 8.6.

“Their posts are the key. They are wing players dressed up as post players…quick players who like to play with their face to the basket and have demonstrated the ability to penetrate. That’s to our advantage when we’re on offense and their advantage when they have the ball,” she said.

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