Hawkeyes use recess to focus on fundamentals

Jan. 21, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When it comes to basketball, rebounding is one of Lisa Bluder’s greatest passions. She’s also a stickler when it comes to fundamentals. So coming up on the short end of the carom total against four of the first five Big Ten opponents didn’t sit well with the University of Iowa head coach.

A tweaking of technique against Northwestern led to a plus-8 on the rebounding chart Jan. 18 for the Hawkeyes, and now Iowa has eight days to fine-tune that technique and other basics before Michigan comes to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday, Jan. 26, with a 7:05 p.m. tip.

“This is an odd week because we have the layoff,” Bluder said at a media conference Wednesday in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena Press Room. “After you’re on a three-game win streak, you want to keep playing, but this is what we have, so we’ll deal with it. We’re spending the week going back to fundamentals — defensive stance, how to handle every screen.”

The Hawkeyes are 11-7 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten Conference. Michigan, which has lost three in a row and four of its last five, is 9-9, 2-5. The Wolverines have lost their last three games by a total of 14 points.

“Michigan is a very balanced team,” Bluder said. “They have great size, they shoot a lot of three’s and they have five seniors. They’re very experienced as well.”

Wolverine seniors Carly Benson and Jessica Minnfield have attempted 118 and 102 three-point field goals this season. Iowa’s leader is Wendy Ausdemore with 87. Michigan has attempted 414 three-pointers — an average of nearly seven more per game than its opponents.

After 18 games, Iowa sits with the exact same record as during the 2007-08 season, when the Hawkeyes finished 21-11, shared the conference regular-season championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

“I think there are definitely some similarities,” Bluder said. “We had the same nonconference record, although this year I think our nonconference schedule was more difficult than last year’s. Who knows what’s going to happen? But we can definitely draw on that and say, `look, this is where we were last year’ and develop some confidence from that.”

Freshman Hannah Draxten was one of many UI bright spots during a 74-46 win against Northwestern on Sunday. She made 5 of 9 field goals (3 of 6 from three-point range) with two assists and 13 points in 16 minutes. During Iowa’s three-game winning streak, Draxten has made 9 of 17 field goals (52.9 percent) and 6 of 13 three-pointers (46.2) in less than 14 minutes per game. Like the rest of the Hawkeyes, she has been paying attention to detail the past few practices.

“We’ve been focusing a lot on defense,” Draxten said. “We’ve also been fine-tuning all the fundamentals and making sure we have everything going into these next couple games.”

The game against Michigan has been billed as Buck Night and all fans will be admitted for $1 (children are always free on week nights). It will be televised nationally by the Big Ten Network.

“I think we’ve got a great promotion on Monday with Buck Night,” Bluder said. “I feel like we’re putting on a good show and the ticket price is so reasonable.”

Iowa has won 11 of the last 12 meetings against the Wolverines, including the past two — 66-61 in Iowa City and 58-37 in the Big Ten Tournament.

Following Monday’s game against Michigan, the Hawkeyes hit the road for a game at Michigan State (12-6, 5-2) on Thursday, Jan. 29, beginning at 6:05 p.m. Iowa hosts Penn State (7-10, 2-5) on Sunday, Feb. 1, at 1:05 p.m.