Jan. 6, 2009
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by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Confidence, individual possessions and stopping opponents from getting into the paint are all things the University of Iowa women’s basketball team are working on to prepare for a showdown at Purdue on Thursday evening.
The Hawkeyes (8-6 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten Conference) will travel to Purdue to take on the Boilermakers on Jan. 8 before heading back home for a matchup with Minnesota on Jan. 11. Neither will be an easy task as Purdue is 9-5 and 2-1 in conference play and the Gophers are 10-4, 2-1.
“It has been a long time since Iowa has won at Purdue,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said at a media conference Tuesday. “At the same time, they are fresh in our minds.”
Iowa suffered a frustrating 76-54 loss at Indiana on Sunday. Bluder didn’t feel her bunch competed well against the Hoosiers but she is optimistic that they can get back on their feet against Purdue. The Hawkeyes recently had a matchup with the Boilermakers on Dec. 28 at home and lost a close battle, 69-60.
“It is not a big issue for us [playing two Purdue games right away],” Bluder said. “It is actually a lot easier for us coaches because as far as the scouting, there isn’t a tremendous amount of film to watch between games, so it’s easier. For the players it’s easier and fresh in their mind to what players they are going up against. I think it makes it a little easier for preparation. If a team is on a hot-streak, do you want to play them twice in close proximity? Probably not. If a team is on a real slide that would be great. I don’t know where Purdue is — they lost to Michigan State and then they beat up Texas, so I’m not really sure where they are.”
The Hawkeyes know they have work to do if they want to run the table this year. Bluder believes her team captains are a vital part of the puzzle coming with experience and leadership to a young Iowa core.
“We watched the film the other day of our game against Indiana and we talked about things we could improve on,” Bluder said. “Our captains are a vital part of demanding that from the rest of the players and holding people accountable. That is the responsibility of a captain. I think they are going to try their best and work as hard as they can to get this team ready to play this week.”
Bluder is not thrilled with the defensive play after the Hoosiers scored 76 points.
“I think we lose our confidence too easily. That’s unfortunate because this group has had a lot of success and has a lot of experience. When you’ve earned that, you shouldn’t lose your confidence that easily. That probably concerns me right now more than anything. I know that if you don’t have confidence you aren’t going to achieve a lot. When you see us going on those dry spells it’s where the confidence is showing more than anything else.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder
“Giving up defensively bothers me,” Bluder said. “Defense is team and that means your whole team is not working together when you give up those paint points. Paint points are not only post-defense, but it’s containing a drive and getting good weak-side position. We have good three-point shooters and I think we can win without scoring a ton of paint points, although we would love to, because it is a high-percentage shot, but if you are going to give up that many than you are in trouble.”
Confidence has been somewhat of a detriment to the Hawkeyes so far this year. Bluder hopes that her squad realizes their talent and experience and doesn’t want them to be too hard on themselves.
“I think we lose our confidence too easily,” Bluder said. “That’s unfortunate because this group has had a lot of success and has a lot of experience. When you’ve earned that, you shouldn’t lose your confidence that easily. That probably concerns me right now more than anything. I know that if you don’t have confidence you aren’t going to achieve a lot. When you see us going on those dry spells it’s where the confidence is showing more than anything else.”
Bluder’s goal is to win but with a focus on not turning the ball over and playing well.
“I think we have to go in and it would be really nice to play well,” Bluder said. “Obviously the goal is to win. I do think you can gain confidence by a great competition. I don’t think we gained any confidence in the Indiana game and I don’t think we competed that well in the Indiana game. I think we competed decently against Purdue the first time we played them. If we can cure our paint problems I think we could give them a good game at Purdue. I do think we can gain some confidence but it is tough on the road.”
Every second of every minute counts during a game. Every possession back and forth can make a difference for the Hawkeyes and that is another area they are concentrating on.
“As a team we talk about breaking it down into individual possessions,” Bluder said. “Down and back, each one of those is a game to try and keep the focus on a particular play at hand or that particular segment of the game. If you get down, you can’t really worry about that because it is over and you aren’t going to do a whole lot about it, but you can control your future and you can control what minutes are left in the game.”
With the first semester over and grades submitted, Iowa did well in the classroom, especially freshman Kelly Krei, who received over a 4.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale).
Tipoff is 6:05 p.m. on Thursday from West Lafayette, Ind.