Feb. 5, 2008
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- Bluder interview on the Big Ten Network (Feb. 4, 2008)
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Vince Lombardi would have had no trouble coining a catchy quotation for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team. The late NFL coaching legend is credited with `Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.’
And the only thing this edition of Hawkeyes has been doing of late is winning. Iowa’s six-game streak of success has led to an overall record of 15-7. The 8-3 mark in the Big Ten Conference has the Hawkeyes in a first-place tie with Ohio State and Purdue.
Perhaps a more appropriate rallying cry around the Iowa team huddles these days would be, `Winning is fun, so let’s continue to have fun.’
“It’s been fun,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said of the winning streak. “We talk about it as a group. But it’s not like pressure, it’s more like fun. It’s how you approach it. They’re enjoying it and I don’t sense any pressure like we have to keep this win streak going.”
There is added motivation to extend the winning streak to seven games. The next opponent is Michigan State (13-10, 5-6) on Thursday, Feb. 7, the last team to defeat the Hawkeyes (73-65 on Jan. 10). Tip-off is 7 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. In the first meeting this season, Iowa led by 13 points at halftime before being outscored by 21 points over the final 20 minutes.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a game where we played so well for 32 minutes and had everything fall apart in the last eight,” Bluder said. “I don’t think it will take a whole lot to get our team focused for the next two days. This one really sticks in our craw a little bit. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to get this one back.”
Iowa leads the all-time series 29-22, but the Spartans have won the last five meetings. There will be some scoreboard-watching Thursday as well since Ohio State travels to Purdue with a 7 p.m. tip.
Michigan State has gone 3-3 since its win against the Hawkeyes. Allyssa DeHaan is leading the Spartans in both scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). Kalisha Keane averages 13.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Both DeHaan and Keane shoot better than 85 percent from the free throw line.
“We’ve gone on a good streak since we played them,” UI senior Johanna Solverson said. “Something lit a fire under our butts to keep us winning. Now we have them on our court. We’re just hoping to continue our streak and keep playing our game.”
Kristi Smith is still pacing the Hawkeyes in scoring at 13.3 points per game. She also leads the team with 69 assists and 28 steals. Wendy Ausdemore is averaging 11.0 points and 4.0 rebounds to go along with a team-high 52 three-point field goals. Iowa ranks third in eight Big Ten statistical categories — field goal percentage (.431), assists per game (15.0), three-point field goal percentage (.372), scoring margin (plus-6), fewest rebounds allowed (33.4), rebounding margin (plus-3.7), scoring defense (58.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.89). The Hawkeyes also rank first in field goal percentage defense (.379) and second in three-point field goal percentage defense (.295) and made three-pointers per game (5.73).
Ausdemore is first in three-point field goal percentage (.437), second in three-pointers made per game (2.36) and 20th in scoring. Smith is seventh in three-pointers made per game (1.59) and three-point field goal percentage (.350), ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.25) and free throw percentage (.792) and 11th in assists (3.19) and points per game.
At the current rate the Hawkeyes are going, it will take Bluder two more games — and victories — to reach 500 for her 24-year career. She is 498-236 in all games, 142-94 at Iowa.
“Any time you have a milestone it’s not the number that’s significant, it’s the memories you have of the past,” Bluder said. “It’s the memories you have with your staff and with your players. I’ve been really blessed to have been doing this for a long time. I’ve been really fortunate and had a great path in my coaching career. I want to get this on Sunday and get it over with and get two more wins this week.”
Iowa plays at Penn State on Sunday, Feb. 10.
“It would be great to be a part of that,” Solverson said. “It’s a great accomplishment for the team and for Coach Bluder and I think she really deserves it.”
The only real piece of discouraging news to come out of Bluder’s weekly press conference is that freshman guard Kachine Alexander did not get second semester certification and will not be in uniform for the rest of the season. Alexander will be able to practice with the team.
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