Dec. 5, 2011
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COACH BLUDER: Here we are at the second of our in state rivalry games. Obviously a big game at Iowa State, a place where we haven’t been successful in the past. It’s kind of been a situation where the home court has held of recent years. Obviously a good team. They are very good in Hilton, as well. Coming off a loss to Michigan, somebody in the Big Ten, somebody that we know pretty well. I think that will give our players a little bit of confidence. Obviously Poppens is playing very well for them. She’s a handful inside. She’s physical, she’s strong. She uses her body extremely well. Nice point guard leading them and doing a good job of scoring at the point guard position for them. Then Hallie Christofferson is a player that we’ve always really liked. Obviously recruited her really hard. Think she’s a wonderful player. Great opportunity for us to bounce back. But we know it’s also a tough scenario.
Q. Home court has held. In most cases it hasn’t been close, whether here or there. Why do you think that is?
COACH BLUDER: I don’t know. It’s very strange. I remember one time we went over there and it was close. I can only remember one close game. This goes back to Jennie Lillis, Jo Solverson. Been a long time since we’ve had a close one there or they’ve had a close one here. Very strange how they’ve been such lopsided victories. I can’t tell you why.
Q. Anything you change up from year to year when you go into this game?
COACH BLUDER: Well, this year we’re going over the night before, which we’ve never done before. We always went the day of the game, keep it consistent with everything else as possible. Sounds like a minor thing and it probably is. It does keep it in that normal pregame routine that we usually have.
Q. Will you do a shootaround up there?
COACH BLUDER: Yeah, we would. Get up there, get off the bus, do a shootaround, go to the hotel, wait around for the game.
Q. Going tomorrow afternoon?
COACH BLUDER: We’re leaving at 9:00 because our players have classes. We have a lot of night classes on Tuesday night. So we want our players to attend class first.
Q. Can you talk about Virginia Johnson. Obviously she was a heralded recruit. Is her defense not there yet? What’s holding her back?
COACH BLUDER: It’s no particular area. We had her backing up the four, then we shifted her position to backing up the five a couple of weeks ago. We thought she felt more comfortable at the five position than she did at the four. She was really pretty happy with the change of going to the backup five. Now it’s a situation where she’s got to beat out Bethany and Morgan. So there’s a little more depth at that position. So there isn’t as many minutes to go around.
Q. Numbers are numbers and ratings are ratings. The last recruits before her all got on the court a lot. She seems to be lagging behind a little bit.
COACH BLUDER: I’m not sure if it’s lagging behind. I don’t know if Jaime would have been starting her freshman year if it hadn’t been for all her injuries. I don’t know. We all learn at a different pace. We all adjust at a different pace. So I think individuals are different. I don’t know if you can take a number, she’s a top 100 recruit, automatic start.
Q. Is it fair to expect a highly-ranked recruit to play a lot of minutes right away?
COACH BLUDER: I think it’s fair if you get a highly ranked recruit, they’re going to see considerable playing time when they come in here. That may or may not happen with Virginia this year.
Q. She can play anywhere between the three and the five. Because she’s a tweener, is it hard to find a role for her?
COACH BLUDER: I think it is. I think she’s more comfortable playing with her back to the basket than she is facing the basket. It’s pretty hard as a freshman to come in and learn a number of different positions. There’s quite a bit of difference in our system being on the perimeter and being on the inside. If you ask her to learn both positions, that’s a lot. That’s more than anybody else on our team does. I think it would be really difficult for a freshman to come in. It’s easier to learn maybe the two and three because they’re very, very similar. But to ask somebody to learn the four and the five, they’re not very similar in our offensive scheme.
Q. Is Kalli backing up Kelly?
COACH BLUDER: Yes, that’s correct.
Q. What did Kalli do well at Kansas State?
COACH BLUDER: She played really well. It was her best game I’d say offensively and defensively. Defensively she took two charges, so she created two turnovers in that situation. She rebounded well for us. I think she had six rebounds for us, if I remember that well. She boxed well. It isn’t just that she scored; she was a presence out there. She looked strong. She looked very, very confident on the floor. Obviously knocked down a pretty important three for us. I was really happy for Kalli. I thought she played the best game I’ve seen her play as a Hawkeye.
Q. She was somebody you were high on at media day. What did you expect out of her this year?
COACH BLUDER: I guess what I would love to have is what we saw at Kansas State: somebody that is able to rebound well and be physical inside. I think she can score. I think she’s a great cutter to the basket. She has that great versatility where she can post up and hit threes. She’s strong going to the rim. I guess what we envisioned is what we really got in that Kansas State game because I thought she played well.
Q. Can you talk about the state of girl’s basketball in Iowa now.
COACH BLUDER: Very strong. This state, for the size, population that’s in this state, it’s amazing how many Division I players there are in this state. You look at UNI’s roster, how many Iowa kids they have playing for them, playing really well. I think the state of women’s basketball or girl’s basketball is very good. Again, I want to go back to the coaches in this state, too, because kids coming out of basketball in this state are usually fundamentally sound. They’ve got excellent work habits. They know the game. I feel the same way with Minnesota kids, too. I think they’re very, very sound as well and have good work habits. I think the coaches in this state have done a really good job preparing them for this level.
Q. Can you talk about Hallie. Fighting from behind the whole time with her. How did you feel about ever having a chance to get her?
COACH BLUDER: I knew it was a longshot just because her sister went to Iowa State and competed in their track program. She was closer to Ames. Kind of a kid that wanted to stay close to home. We knew it was a longshot. But she was good enough to fight for. Obviously disappointed we didn’t get her. I know she’s going to have a great career there.
Q. Iowa with a small population base, three or four programs fighting for the same in state kids.
COACH BLUDER: It makes it very difficult. Yeah, you want to keep your top inside players close to home. But it’s very difficult when you have, in our case, four Division I programs in this state. You look at the entire state of Minnesota, one division, one program, in a much more populated area. I think it makes it very competitive. Sometimes competition is a good thing, though. It really makes you work harder and be more focused. Hopefully that’s doing that for all four of us in this state.
Q. The game Wednesday, any bearing when kids line up to pick?
COACH BLUDER: I’m not sure. I as a competitor think it does. But in how it’s turned out, I’m not really sure. It’s not like we have the decisive win and that year we get all the recruits, that year they have the decisive win, the next year they get all the recruits. People grow up Iowa State or Iowa fans. I think geography has a lot to do with things. But I don’t know if the outcome has as much bearing on recruiting as us coaches think it does.
Q. From your perspective, is it style of play, marketing? Why do they draw so well? What are they doing right out there?
COACH BLUDER: I think they’ve done a lot of things well. I think their style of play is very exciting. They shoot a lot of threes. They win. People like to see a winner, and they win. I think their marketing department has done a great job creating an environment. It’s a fun environment. They do a lot of promotions. When they first started out, they really gave their tickets away just to get people in the door. Once people got hooked, then they could raise the prices. But they got people hooked first. Again, people like to win and support a winner. They kind of turned the corner at a time when nothing else was winning a whole lot at Iowa State. I think that helped, too, to get everybody on the bandwagon.