Iowa seeks 18th Hawkeye Challenge championship

Nov. 20, 2008

IOWA CITY, Iowa — After posting 87 points and winning by 42 against Texas State four days ago, University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said her team is excited to return to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena court for this weekend’s KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Challenge.

Iowa (1-1 overall) opens against Boston University on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. The Terriers defeated Rhode Island 50-45 on Nov. 14 and host Siena this evening (Thursday, Nov. 20). The opposite side of the bracket includes Portland and Providence. Both those teams are 1-1. Portland plays at Purdue tonight.

Sunday’s game featuring the Hawkeyes (2:35 p.m.) will be televised live in Eastern Iowa on KCRG-TV9.

“It’s nice that we’re going to be back home again and excited about playing in our own KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Challenge,” Bluder said at a Thursday media conference. “We have one of the longest-standing women’s basketball tournaments in America and we’re really proud of that. To have an existing tournament run that long is very rare. It’s a great credit to our athletic department.”

Iowa has a 39-5 record with 17 championships in the Hawkeye Classic since its inception in 1985 (there was no tournament in 1996). Last season the Hawkeyes defeated Northern Illinois 87-43 in the first round before falling to Wyoming 54-50 in the championship.

“We’re excited and we want to win the tournament,” UI senior forward Wendy Ausdemore said. “We want to get back on our home court and get our defensive intensity up.”

Boston is an experienced team that starts four seniors and a sophomore. Jesyka Burks-Wiley scored 16 points with nine rebounds in the season-opening win against Rhode Island. Another senior — Christine Kinneary — added 11 points and six rebounds.

“We have to come out and play well in front of our home crowd and on our home court,” UI senior point guard Kristi Smith said.

The Hawkeyes are bouncing back after a `great lesson’ learned against Kansas on Tuesday. The Jahways scored 24 points off 23 Iowa turnovers and posted a 76-55 decision inside Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.

“We needed (the Kansas) game in our exhibition season,” Bluder said. “We got really comfortable with the type of defense we were used to seeing, which wasn’t nearly as aggressive as what Kansas gave to us. It was a rude awakening. I think now that we’ve seen it, we’ll be more prepared for it and we will see it again — it’s not if we’re going to see it again, it’s when we’re going to see it again. We’ll be much better prepared and our players will be better able to handle it.”

Bluder said that although the Kansas experience was a `great lesson’, that is not the way she enjoys learning.

“I hate to learn lessons from losses,” she said. “But you have to gain something and I think we did.”

The biggest bright spot that emerged from Tuesday’s setback was the play of senior center Megan Skouby. In 39 minutes, Skouby scored a career-high 33 points (10 of 17 field goals, 13 of 14 free throws) with seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

“Megan played like an all-Big Ten post,” Bluder said. “She not only shot the ball well and got to the free throw line, but she had three blocks. She kept her composure and played with a little more maturity than I’ve ever seen Megan play with. That was a very, very bright spot from the Kansas game.”

Bluder joked about keeping Skouby grounded after Tuesday’s impressive outing.

“Then today in practice she was talking about bringing the ball down the floor,” Bluder said. “I said, `Megan, after one good game doesn’t mean you’re an All-American point guard.'”

On Tuesday, Nov. 25, Iowa will head to the Paradise Jam at St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Hawkeyes will play Texas Tech on Thanksgiving, South Florida on Friday and California on Saturday.