Big Ten's Hottest Teams Collide Right Away

March 1, 2011

Complete Coach Bluder Press Conference Transcript

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Big Ten Conference turns up the heat in game seven of its annual tournament, pitting preseason No. 1 Ohio State against No. 2 Iowa on Friday in a rematch of the 2010 title clash.

Both the No. 24 Hawkeyes (22-7 overall, 10-6 Big Ten) and Ohio State (19-9, 10-6) are hot heading to Indianapolis. Iowa has won five in a row; Ohio State has won six straight.

The Hawkeyes hope they are too hot for the defending champions to handle.

“I think these are the two hottest teams in the Big Ten,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder told a gathering of media Tuesday in the press room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We both have long win streaks going into it, both of us are playing well, both of us feel good about our teams right now. And a lot of people thought this might be a good championship game like it was last year. We just have to play it on the (second) day.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 25 minutes after the contest between Michigan State and the winner of Thursday’s game between Northwestern and Minnesota, which should be approximately 7:30 p.m. (CT).

It is a rubber match, with Iowa winning 89-76 on Jan. 8 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena and Ohio State claiming an 81-67 decision Jan. 24 in Value City Arena. The three league teams with the highest RPI in the Big Ten — Michigan State (13th), Ohio State (15th) and Iowa (18th) — are all on the same side of the tournament bracket.

“Our side is tough, there’s no doubt about it,” Bluder said. “We had a semifinal game with Michigan State last year and we would love to have a rematch of that this year.”

In 2010, the Hawkeyes defeated Penn State (82-75) and Michigan State (59-54) before falling in the championship game to the Buckeyes, 66-64.

Iowa has a string of victories against Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. In seven of the last eight games, the Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents in the second half by and average score of 43-35.

“Any time you’re out-performing your opponent that consistently in the second half, it shows that mentally you’re in it for 40 minutes and you’re able to get it done. Our conditioning has been really good this year.”

In the first four halves against each other this season, Iowa outscored the Buckeyes three times: 45 to 40, 44 to 36 and 33 to 32. Ohio State went on a 49-34 run in the final 20 minutes Jan. 24 to rally for a win.

“They definitely got us in the second half (in Columbus) and it was a defensive breakdown more than anything else,” Bluder said. “You look at these two games we played Ohio State, we beat them three halves, they beat us one half. We have to remember that.”