Feb. 22, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — A substantial portion of head coach Lisa Bluder’s weekly press conference Wednesday was spent talking about byes and goodbyes.
Both topics are worthy of discussion for a University of Iowa women’s basketball team that concludes its regular season this week with games at Northwestern (Thursday) and at home against Michigan (Sunday).
The Hawkeyes are tied for third in the Big Ten Conference with a record of 17-10 overall, 9-5 in the league. The top four teams receive a first-round bye at the Big Ten Tournament on March 1-4 in Indianapolis. With the addition of Nebraska to the conference, the number of byes in the postseason was reduced from five to four.
The Hawkeyes remain in the “bye hunt.”
“We knew it was going to be even more difficult to receive a bye (this season), and we are sitting in a situation that if we can get two wins this week, we’re looking at a bye,” Bluder said at a gathering with reporters in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“That’s something we didn’t think was possible earlier in the season,” UI junior center Morgan Johnson said. “Hearing that gets you enthused and excited for upcoming matches and we know the importance of those games.”
On Jan. 26, following a 60-53 loss at Nebraska, the Hawkeyes were left with a record of 11-10, 3-5. They have won six in a row since, and an entire week between games allows the depleted Iowa roster to get even more of a breather.
“I’m saying it’s a big week because there are some (programs) that would love to say they are going into a big week during the final week of play. I’m happy that we moved up to a tie for third. What happens this week will make a big impact on where we end up in conference play: we could finish up as high as third, or as low at seventh, from these two games this week. So, thus, a big week.”
UI head women’s coach
“It’s nice to have our bodies rest a little bit and get ready for a big couple of games,” UI senior forward Kelly Krei said.
The first of those two big games is Thursday at Northwestern, a team the Hawkeyes defeated, 86-55, in the league opener Dec. 30 in Iowa City. The Wildcats are 14-13 overall, 4-10 in Big Ten play. Northwestern has dropped four of its last five games, with the exception being a 63-51 win at Nebraska on Feb. 16. That eye-opener will undoubtedly keep the Hawkeyes focused on the action inside Welsh-Ryan Arena.
“I’m really glad that I have the Nebraska win to show (the team),” Bluder said. “Nobody can be taken lightly. When we played them last time, we were very good. We played well in all categories.”
The final regular-season game will be Feb. 26 against a Michigan team the Hawkeyes beat, 58-57, on Feb. 16 in Ann Arbor. The next time the teams meet will be on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena; it will be a special send-off for five Hawkeye senior student-athletes: Krei, Megan Considine, Hannah Draxten, Kalli Hansen and Kamille Wahlin.
“To say goodbye to those players is extremely tough,” Bluder said. “A win over Michigan would make it a little bit more of a happier occasion, and that’s the plan. But it’s always very difficult to see that senior group say goodbye to the crowd after the game.”
Krei, an engineering major, would rather stay behind the scene and leave public speaking to others, but she has plenty of thank-yous that need to be said.
“I will dread it, but it’s nice to thank everyone that deserves to be thanked,” Krei said. “That’s something that needs to be done, so I’ll put on a smile and talk loud.”
Bluder said she is beginning to sound like a broken record, but this is another “big week” — something typical of nearly every week in the Big Ten.
“I’m saying it’s a big week because there are some (programs) that would love to say they are going into a big week during the final week of play,” Bluder said. “I’m happy that we moved up to a tie for third. What happens this week will make a big impact on where we end up in conference play: we could finish up as high as third, or as low at seventh, from these two games this week. So, thus, a big week.”
Iowa and Northwestern tip off at 7 p.m. (CT) on Thursday from Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series, 45-13, and have won 19 of the last 20 meetings.