Nov. 3, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Hit me with your best shot.
That’s the approach the University of Iowa women’s basketball team is taking as it prepares for Sunday’s exhibition game against NCAA Division II foe Winona (Minn.) State. The Warriors played giant-killers in 2009, knocking off Minnesota, 64-62, in Williams Arena.
Last season Winona State was 21-9, falling in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament; Iowa was 22-9, falling in the first round of the NCAA Division I Tournament.
“We absolutely better expect their best shot,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said Thursday at a gathering with media inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We know they prepare for this game because they get one opportunity to play against a Division I school. It can be a headline-maker for them. It could be a huge thing for their program for recruiting, especially within the state of Minnesota. If they have an opportunity to say they defeated a team like Minnesota (in 2009) or Iowa, that’s really big for them.”
There are three Hawkeyes on the roster from the state of Minnesota — senior point guard Kamille Wahlin (Crookston), redshirt sophomore guard Theairra Taylor (St. Paul) and freshman post Bethany Doolittle (Oakdale). Former Hawkeye guard Kristi Smith is assistant athletics director at Winona State. As a point guard at Iowa from 2005-09, Smith scored 1,455 points — eighth all-time in school history.
“We absolutely better expect their best shot. We know they prepare for this game because they get one opportunity to play against a Division I school. It can be a headline-maker for them. It could be a huge thing for their program for recruiting, especially within the state of Minnesota. If they have an opportunity to say they defeated a team like Minnesota (in 2009) or Iowa, that’s really big for them.”
UI head coach
Bluder has 12 “healthy” players ready for Sunday’s exhibition, giving her the deepest bench she has ever had. And although the Hawkeyes will make sure everyone gets on the court and sees extended time in the spotlight, liberal substitutions might not be the case for their opponent.
“You have to be ready to compete and go out and play like it’s a regular-season game,” said UI forward Kelly Krei. “Anyone who steps on the floor wants to win, so you have to bring your A game.”
Krei, a senior, started all 31 games last season for the Hawkeyes, averaging 9.3 points and 5.1 rebounds while making 54 3-point field goals.
Junior center Morgan Johnson expects the Hawkeyes to bring plenty of energy to Mediacom Court on Sunday. A year ago, she averaged 10.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots in 31 games.
“(Winona State) isn’t a team you can look over,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a competitive dogfight to the end for sure.”
Receiving a stiff challenge in early November is a good thing, Johnson said.
“If you can come out right off the bat and play a team that is going to be as difficult as (Winona State), it’s going to make you more prepared for the next games,” she said. “It’s not going to be such a big step between them and the next opponent we have.”
A foot injury limited junior guard Trisha Nesbitt to 16 games last season. Bluder said Nesbitt’s health has improved this season which adds more depth at that position.
“I’m so happy for Trisha; she’s feeling really good,” Bluder said. “Where she was last year to this year is night and day. Now we don’t have to be moving Jaime (Printy) to the backup point guard this year. We’ve got Sam (Logic) that could play there. We have Trisha that’s doing a very good job, too.”
Game time Sunday is 1 p.m. (CT). Tickets are $5 for adults and free for youth (18 and under) and UI students. Any fan who purchases a ticket for the women’s game is invited to stay for the men’s exhibition game (against Northwest Missouri State), that tips off 30 minutes after the conclusion of the women’s game.
More About Kristi Smith Bluder was asked if she thought her former player, Kristi Smith, would become at athletic director at a school someday.
“I think that’s where she would like to end up,” Bluder said. “This is certainly a good opportunity for her to get her master’s degree. I could see her coaching, too. I wouldn’t put that one out. I think she is a good candidate for that as well.”