Jan. 11, 2011
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- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — What a difference a week makes. A week ago, the Hawkeyes were winless in the Big Ten Conference. That was before the squad posted back-to-back victories, downing Minnesota and No. 20 Ohio State in front of a stellar crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa will now face another tough test, as it heads to Big Ten leading and ninth-ranked Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., on Thursday night.
“We know this is a tough scenario,” said UI head coach Lisa Bluder at her Tuesday press conference. “This is probably our toughest road game since North Carolina, and that one didn’t end up the way we wanted it to, so we hope to reverse the trend and have different outcome in this one.”
The Spartans enter the game riding a 13-game winning streak, which includes three consecutive league victories over Illinois, Wisconsin and at Michigan. Michigan State won its three Big Ten contests by an average of 13 points with the closest margin being a seven-point win against the Wolverines — a squad that won in Iowa City on Jan. 2, 60-53.
“Michigan State is a good basketball team,” said Bluder, whose Hawkeyes are ranked 16th in the latest Associated Press poll. “I know they’re at the top of the Big Ten. I do the Midwest regional rankings, and I have them as the best team in the Big Ten right now.”
The Spartans, who are a perfect 10-0 inside the Breslin Center, have a pair of players averaging in double figures and six players netting at least five points a contest. Kalisha Keane paces the squad, scoring 16.2 points, while shooting 46 percent from the floor.
The Hawkeyes will have to contend with a Michigan State squad that will look to avenge a pair of Iowa wins from a season ago. Iowa downed the Spartans in Iowa City last February and then in the semifinals of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament.
Maybe they’ve had an “I” on their mirror all summer long, just like we had an “O” on our mirror all summer long,” said Bluder. “They want to get us. We beat them twice last year and we took them out in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, and I’m sure they have a little bit of animosity about that in the way we ended their tournament run.”
Iowa heads to East Lansing on a high after dropping the Buckeyes, 89-76, on Sunday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes picked up their 14th victory in front of nearly 10,000 fans at the Arena.
“The Ohio State crowd was wonderful,” said Bluder. “It was the best feeling I’ve ever had in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since I’ve been here with the incredible atmosphere.”
The atmosphere helped the Hawkeyes break out of their offensive shooting slump, as the squad posted its highest point total since November. Iowa shot nearly 50 percent from the field in the contest, which included a 42 percent mark from long range — its best mark since Nov. 26.
“I think the last three halves that we’ve played we were kind of back on the offensive like how we were playing at the end of last year, and that feels really good,” said Bluder. “We’re going to have to play really well to get a win at Michigan State, as it’s a tough place to play.”
Thursday’s game will be broadcast live to a national audience on the Big Ten Network beginning at 5:30 p.m.