Hawks Optimistic Heading into Harsh Stretch

Jan. 25, 2012

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It has been said that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. That goes for women’s basketball victories in the Big Ten Conference.

The University of Iowa (11-9 overall, 3-4 Big Ten) travels to No. 19 Nebraska (16-3, 5-2) on Thursday for the second of three straight games against nationally ranked competition. The Hawkeyes are searching for their first conference road victory of 2011-12 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, where the Cornhuskers are 10-1 this season.

“We need to get it going, we need some wins,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said Wednesday at a press conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “It’s not an easy week to have that happen, but we need to make it happen. I mean, we need to have a quality win or two in our résumé, and this is an opportunity for us to get it.”

Iowa opened its string of games against ranked foes Sunday at Penn State, where the Hawkeyes couldn’t hold a late lead and lost, 68-52. Iowa and Nebraska met Jan. 8 in Iowa City, with the visiting Cornhuskers overcoming a second-half deficit to win, 77-72. The Hawkeyes host No. 13 Purdue on Saturday, Jan. 28.

“We know we have a couple tough games ahead of us, but we’re excited,” UI junior guard Jaime Printy said. “We need some wins, and we’ve been working hard in practice so I think we’re ready. We need confidence down the stretch, and we’ve talked about that a lot. We play well for 35 minutes, and the last five minutes we give away our win.”

“We need to get it going, we need some wins. It’s not an easy week to have that happen, but we need to make it happen. I mean, we need to have a quality win or two in our résumé, and this is an opportunity for us to get it.”
Lisa Bluder
UI head basketball coach

The Hawkeyes have overcome adversity several times during the last four seasons, when they secured for four NCAA Tournament berths. Last season Iowa won seven of its final nine regular-season games and five in a row; in 2010, the Hawkeyes won nine of their final 11; in 2009, Iowa closed the regular season with eight wins in nine games; in 2008, the Hawkeyes won 11 of their final 13.

“We just need a couple wins,” Printy said. “Once you get that feeling of winning back, you get on a roll. Getting confidence back is huge.”

Not only does Bluder say the Hawkeyes are capable of a similar winning streak this season, she warns that opponents should be cautious when tangling with Iowa during the next nine games.

“We can definitely do that,” Bluder said. “We’re so close to winning so many of these games that I am optimistic that it can happen. We have to play a 40 minute game, but we’ve been there. We’ve been right there with the top teams in the Big Ten. I think any team that looks at us thinks we’re pretty dangerous.”

Boosting Bluder’s optimism is the fact that half of the league losses by Iowa have come by two points (Jan. 15 at Purdue) and five points (Jan. 8 at home to Nebraska). As the Hawkeyes close out the month of January, win or lose, the reality of this being the final season is upon senior starters Kamille Wahlin and Kelly Krei. The other seniors are Kalli Hansen, who is nearing a return to the court after a groin injury, and Megan Considine, who will miss the entire season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in the preseason.

“It’s kind of an unusual situation when you have the majority of your seniors sitting on the bench out with injuries,” Bluder said. “But certainly for Kamille and for Kelly, who are two starters for us, they know the situation. They want to end up in the NCAA Tournament again, and they know what has to happen in order for that to happen. I’m sure they feel a little bit of pressure right now, and you can’t worry about those things because you start thinking about it too much and it starts hampering your play.”

Thursday’s game will tip off at 7 p.m. (CT). Brent Balbinot and former Hawkeye Wendy Ausdemore will call the game for the Hawkeye Radio Network, or on the Hawkeye All-Access page of hawkeyesports.com. It will also be streamed live on hawkeyesports.com via the BTN Digital Network. Hawkeye All-Access subscribers can watch live video streams of UI events on the BTN Digital Network at no extra charge.

This will be the first time a Hawkeye women’s basketball team has played at the Devaney Center since March 21, 2005, when Iowa defeated Nebraska, 71-67, in the WNIT.