Dec. 14, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — ‘Tis the season.
`Tis the portion of the women’s basketball schedule where University of Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder has to catch herself from breaking into holiday verse.
Finals Week wraps up Friday, two days before the Hawkeyes (7-3 overall) can wrap up their second mythical state championship in three seasons with a win at Drake (3-5).
“Now (the players) don’t have classes, they don’t have the stress of exams, and they can just focus on basketball,” Bluder said at a Friday news conference in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “To me, it’s the most enjoyable time of the year — it sounds like a jingle, doesn’t it?”
Iowa and the Bulldogs tip off from the Knapp Center in Des Moines at 2 p.m. (CT) on Sunday, Dec. 16. Thanks to back-to-back Hawkeye wins against Northern Iowa (68-46 on Dec. 1) and No. 22 Iowa State (50-42 on Dec. 6), a victory by Iowa would give it a sweep of the three other in-state Division I programs.
“With Jaime (Printy) and Trisha (Nesbitt) being Iowa natives, we want to definitely get the state championship this year for them,” said junior Theairra Taylor. “That’s one of our goals this year, and this next win will get us that goal.”
A third native Iowan, Claire Till of Dubuque, has missed the last two games with an injury. She will not play in either of the Hawkeyes’ final two nonconference games.
“Now (the players) don’t have classes, they don’t have the stress of exams, and they can just focus on basketball. To me, it’s the most enjoyable time of the year — it sounds like a jingle, doesn’t it?”
UI head basketball coach
It will be the third true road test for Iowa this season. The Hawkeyes are 0-2 on the road with losses at Florida International and Florida State at the end of November.
“We haven’t fared so well on the road, so this is going to be a real test for us to go over to Drake and play in an environment that has given us some problems in the past,” Bluder said.
Iowa has won 10 straight in the series, including the last five at the Knapp Center. The Hawkeyes were 2-2 in the series from 2000-04, when Urbandale native Jennie Lillis wore the black and gold. The three-time All-Big Ten selection is in her first season as head coach at Drake; Bluder was head coach of the Bulldogs from 1990-2000. Bluder wished her former player good luck via text prior to Drake’s season-opener against South Dakota.
“Jennie was a great Hawkeye, but she is going to put everything aside and prepare for this game,” Bluder said. “Her players will have an emotional boost to do well for her, so it’s going to be a tough game going over there, and we need our players’ full focus so we can wrap up the state title.”
For Printy, that full focus began Friday after finishing finals in statistics and accounting.
“It’s always hard when you’re trying to study for finals and come focused for practice, too,” Printy said. “But coaches said they have been proud of us this week for how good we have practiced through Finals Week. We’re ready to get back out and play someone different than ourselves.”
With Iowa’s No. 1 priority — Finals Week — in the scorebook, the Hawkeyes can officially move on to priority No. 2 — getting ready for Drake. The importance of this game is magnified by what Iowa has already accomplished in the month of December. In fact, Bluder gave the team extra time to celebrate the Iowa State win eight days ago.
Now the Hawkeyes have an opportunity to put a ribbon and bow on the 2012 state crown.
“We want to wrap up the state championship,” Bluder said. “We are sitting one game away from that.”
`Tis the season.