Searching for Defensive Consistency

Jan. 5, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Defense wins games. University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder is focusing on defense and looking for consistency out of the Hawkeyes.

“I keep stressing defense,” said Bluder, whose team is 9-6 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten heading into tonight’s game against Illinois. “We keep working on fundamentals in practice, and we’re going to keep drilling.

“I’ve got to convince them and sell them how important defense is, and hopefully we can get a consistent effort there, because we can’t be expected to score 85 points every game and win games.”

The Hawkeyes have put together solid performances on the defensive front, but each time they have followed it up with less-than-stellar play. Iowa limited Western Illinois to a season-low 45 points on 19.7 percent shooting Dec. 9, but followed it up by allowing 96 points and 13 3-pointers in a road loss at Bradley.

Iowa was strong in a 71-46 victory over Drake on Dec. 20, before giving up 80 points on nearly 60 percent shooting in an 86-80 home win over Mississippi Valley State. The Jekyll-and-Hyde act continued with a stellar showing in a Big Ten-opening 86-55 victory over Northwestern on Dec. 30, but Ohio State scored 62 points in a 25-minute span to down Iowa, 84-71, in Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 2.

“If we follow the pattern, this should be a good defensive game for us against Illinois,” said Bluder with a smirk. “It seems like it is on-again, off-again, every other game.”

Junior Morgan Johnson says the Hawkeyes have spurts where they are a good defensive team, but she feels the team needs to increase its overall intensity.

“We have to kick it up a notch,” said Johnson, who is averaging 14.9 points to go along with a team-high 31 blocks. “It’s an intensity that we’re missing here and there. We’ll go spurts where we’re great, but then the intensity is not there.”

Senior Kamille Wahlin says Iowa needs to put various pieces together to be a more consistent team.

“Defensively, you have to do everything right when you’re at this level,” said Wahlin. “Right now, we’re doing a couple of things right in one game, and the next game it’s something else we’re doing a little bit better.

“It’s learning to put every level of defense, whether it is closing out, help side, trapping — putting all those types of levels together in every game. That’s the important part.”

The Hawkeyes are a better defensive team than they’re showing on a night-in, night-out basis, but they need to learn from their miscues and move on.

“It’s easy to get frustrated in certain games when you’re not shutting people down when you feel like you should be, and you know you’re a better defender than that,” said Wahlin. “You have to learn and move on to that next game and not hold on to your mistakes.

“You have to learn, take the next step, and try to get better. It’s the only mindset you can have right now.”

Tipoff for tonight’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised on Mediacom with Rob Brooks and Shelley Till calling the action.