Iowa focusing on defense against Minnesota

Jan. 2, 2008

IOWA CITY — Despite scoring fewer than 50 points for just the second time all season in its most recent outing at Michigan, the University of Iowa women’s basketball team is not worried about offense when it travels to Minnesota on Thursday.

“We have to get back and concentrate on defense,” said Hawkeye junior Wendy Ausdemore.

Iowa (8-5 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) travels to Williams Arena for a 7:05 p.m. tip-off. The Golden Gophers (11-3, 2-0) are 6-1 at home this season, while Iowa is 2-3 on the road.

Michigan ended a two-game Hawkeye winning streak on Dec. 30 by rallying for a 63-46 win in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines shot 58.3 percent in the second half and scored 39 points during the final 20 minutes.

“We let up on defense (at Michigan),” Ausdemore said. “We’ll be all right. Minnesota is a fun place to play and it will be a fun game for us.”

Iowa leads the conference in scoring defense (55.2 points per game) and field goal percentage defense (.353).

Iowa leads the all-time series 37-20, but the Gophers have won seven of the last 10 meetings. Last season the team’s split the series with the road team emerging with two-point victories (Iowa 58-56 at Minneapolis and Minnesota 80-78 at Iowa City).

Four Iowa players average double figures in scoring for a career against the Gophers. Ausdemore and Megan Skouby both average 14.3 points per game, followed by Kristi Smith (11.3) and Krista VandeVenter (10.5).

“Road wins in the Big Ten are tough to get,” Ausdemore said. “You have to be ready to play every night and we have to stick to our defense.”

VandeVenter, a native of Osseo, Minn., scored a season-high 14 points against Michigan. In the process, she pulled down nine rebounds, giving her 705 for her career.

The start of the Big Ten schedule will be challenging for the Hawkeyes. The first five games are against teams that rank in the RPI top 50. Four of those opponents — Penn State (21), Michigan (15), Minnesota (14) and Michigan State (31) are in the top 31.

Since scoring 19 points and making 5 of 8 three-point field goals against Western Illinois on Dec. 22, Ausdemore has combined for 13 points on 2 of 16 shooting from behind the arc against Penn State and Michigan. When does she predict the next break-out game?

“Hopefully Thursday night,” she said with a smile.

Iowa returns home Sunday, Jan. 6, against Ohio State with a 3:05 p.m. tip-off.

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