Nov. 1, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It isn’t unorthodox testing in the league of Dr. Frankenstein, but five days after Halloween, University of Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder will unveil her most recent experiment: 6-foot-4 Bethany Doolittle playing forward.
Doolittle, a sophomore, averaged 3.7 points and 1.8 rebounds in 31 games a year ago. She complements 6-5 All-Big Ten post player Morgan Johnson, giving the Hawkeyes a significant height advantage against most teams.
“It has been a fun experience getting to know a new position,” Doolittle said. “I have a lot to learn, but I’m getting better at it every day. It will be tough for teams to match up with two tall players at the same time.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder and select Hawkeye players met with reporters Thursday in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa hosts Division II Quincy University on Sunday, Nov. 4, in an exhibition with a 3:30 p.m. (CT) tip. It will be the first time fans will see the “Twin Towers” of Doolittle and Johnson.
“I’m excited that it gives Bethany her first opportunity to start at the power forward,” Bluder said. “Her entire life she’s played center. This is the first time she’s been a starter, and playing a new position. That will be a good test for her as well. Hopefully our experiment will work. That’s what we’re banking on.”
Iowa debuted its tall combo in a scrimmage against Creighton on Oct. 27 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Bluejays are an aggressive group without a true post presence.
“We’re getting progressively better at playing a double low post,” Bluder said. “Bethany is capable of playing on the block, she’s capable of playing face in the basket. I think she’s strong in both areas. It gives us more versatility. If they have a short lineup, we can go with a double-post offense. If they have a power forward, we can take Bethany out of rebounding action. Just having that height there will give us great versatility.”
The biggest update from the news conference was a bummer for the Hawkeyes: senior guard Jaime Printy, who overcame February ACL reconstruction, injured a hamstring Thursday in practice. She will not play Sunday, but could be ready for the regular-season opener Friday, Nov. 9, against Northern Illinois.
“Hopefully it’s not anything big, and I’ll be back in no time,” Printy said through occasional smiles. “It’s just one of those things that happens, and I’ll get back from it, it’s no big deal. It could be a lot worse.”
Sophomore Melissa Dixon, who started eight games in place of Printy last season, will fill that void once again. Dixon averaged 6.8 points and 1.8 assists a year ago.
For Johnson, a preseason All-Big Ten selection, it’s time to get in front of real fans, with real officials, and a real opponent.
“You try to approach every game the exact same way and try to use it as a learning experience,” Johnson said. “If you don’t treat it as a normal game, you’re not going to learn what you need to change for a real game. We’re ready to go.”
Bluder intends to use the exhibition as an opportunity to see what personnel rotations are most successful, something made more difficult by the absence of Printy.
Quincy compiled a record of 22-8 last season, advancing to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Lady Hawks return seven letterwinners, but just two starters.
“I don’t know what Quincy is going to bring to the table as far as offenses and defenses; I haven’t watched any of their film from last year,” Bluder said. “We are really focusing more on ourselves, getting ourselves better, than preparing for an opponent, which is very different than we do during the year.”
Sunday’s exhibition is part of a men’s/women’s doubleheader, with the Hawkeye men playing Quincy at 1:05 p.m.
“We have the opportunity to expose our program to some fans that may not have come to our game, some men’s basketball fans that haven’t seen women’s basketball for a long time,” Bluder said. “That’s good for our program and it’s a great environment to have the extra fans here.”