Iowa veterans, Iowa youth prepare for Duke

Dec. 2, 2008

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Seniors Megan Skouby, Kristi Smith and Wendy Ausdemore have combined to score 3,303 points during their careers as members of the University of Iowa women’s basketball team. Freshmen Kelly Krei, Kamille Wahlin and Hannah Draxten have combined for 82 points.

UI head coach Lisa Bluder sees a lot of similarities between the two classes of players and Hawkeye fans will see a lot of all six this week as Iowa (4-3 overall) continues perhaps the most difficult stretch on its schedule. The Hawkeyes lost to No. 3 California on a neutral site in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 29, will play No. 12 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., on Thursday, and hosts Iowa State (rated No. 25 a week ago) on Sunday.

“It’s a big week for us,” Bluder said at Tuesday’s media conference in the Press Room of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “It’s tough, but we have nothing to lose. We’re the underdog in both games. We have to go play our hardest and know that all the pressure is on them being the favorite.”

Duke is 4-1 overall with its only loss (53-51) against Hartford. The Cyclones are 5-1 with their lone set back a 38-point decision against Stanford. Bluder respects both opponents.

“Going into Cameron is obviously exciting, but it’s a very tough environment to play in,” Bluder said. “Duke is a very good defensive basketball team. They’re very aggressive whether they’re playing man or zone. It’s going to be a tough challenge.

“The Iowa State game is always bigger because of the in-state rivalry. Iowa State has a tremendous team and it is very well-coached. They have so many weapons.”

Iowa’s game at Duke — part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge — can be heard beginning at 6:05 p.m. on, AM-800 KXIC, AM-600 WMT and AM-1040. This is the first meeting between the schools. The Blue Devils are sixth in Division I in steals per game (14.4) and field goal percentage defense (30.4), seventh in rebound margin (plus-14.2), 14th in scoring margin (plus-23.6) and tied for 18th in scoring defense (52.0 points per game). When the Hawkeyes get to the free throw line, there is a good chance they will come away with points. Iowa is 17th in the country in free throw percentage (103 of 134, 76.9 percent).

Iowa State and the Hawkeyes will meet for the 39th time. The Cyclones lead the all-time series 20-18 and have won the last three games. Tipoff inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday is 1:05 p.m.

Although no Iowa freshmen are listed in the probable starting lineups, the trio of rookies Krei, Wahlin and Draxten are proving to be the foundation for the next generation of excellence within the Hawkeye program. It is reminiscent of 2005-06 when Skouby, Smith and Ausdemore were first-year players. Now all three veterans have scored more than 1,000 points in their careers — Skouby has 1,170, Smith has 1,106 and Ausdemore, who joined the elite group Nov. 28 against South Florida, has 1,027.

“They complement each other very well and they get along well, too,” Bluder said. “This group of seniors has played a lot of basketball and they’ve had a lot of opportunities to score baskets. All three of them have taken advantage of their opportunities.”

So far this season, Krei has averaged 24.4 minutes per game, Whalin has averaged 15.1 and Draxten has averaged 11.0. If the Hawkeye opponents were creampuffs, that would be understandable. But with a list of opponents that includes Kansas, Providence, Texas Tech and California, that equates to baptism by fire.

“In an ideal situation it would have been nice to ease them in, but we just didn’t have that luxury,” Bluder said. “I have to look at the positive of that — when Wendy, Kristi and Megan were freshmen, they were kind of in the same boat. They played a lot and it really served them well for the rest of their careers. I’m hoping it will serve Kamille, Hannah and Kelly well, too.”

Not only has Iowa played excellent competition in the early going, but after Thursday , it will have played in two of the most storied basketball venues in the country — Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas) and Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke).

“That’s a pretty exciting opportunity for our players to play in two of the top venues within a month,” Bluder said.

After the road trip to Duke, the Hawkeyes play three Iowa schools — at home against Iowa State, then Thursday, Dec. 11, at home against Northern Iowa (7:05 p.m.), and Saturday, Dec. 20, at Drake (11:05 a.m.).