Bluder: Now We Have to Do Our Part

Oct. 24, 2013

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — With the University of Iowa being a host site for the NCAA Tournament for a second-straight season, UI head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder says it’s up to the Hawkeyes to be playing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena during March Madness.

“It’s a great honor to be one of the 16 host sites in the country,” Bluder said Thursday during the UI Women’s Basketball Media Day. “Now it is up to me, my staff, and the women wearing the Hawkeye jerseys to make sure we’re back there again on March 23, playing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in our seventh-straight NCAA tournament.”

Bluder says four of the five starting positions are set with returning starters Theairra Taylor, Samantha Logic, Bethany Doolittle, and reigning Big Ten Conference Sixth Player of the Year Melissa Dixon.

Dixon is the team’s top returning scorer with 342 points (10.1 per game) from a team that went 21-13 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Logic netted 9.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.4 assists, while Taylor and Doolittle chipped in 8.7 and 7.2 points.

Bluder calls Taylor — the lone senior — the heart and soul of the Hawkeyes. Taylor, who has battled through three knee surgeries, played every game as a junior.

“She has been spectacular at times,” said Bluder. “You saw that in her game against Notre Dame last year (10 points, seven rebounds), and I’m optimistic she is going to pick up right from that spot from what I have seen in practices.”

“It’s a great honor to be one of the 16 host sites in the country. Now it is up to me, my staff, and the women wearing the Hawkeye jerseys to make sure we’re back there again on March 23, playing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in our seventh-straight NCAA tournament.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder

Logic, who has started every game in her first two seasons, was a third-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore after leading the league and finishing 15th nationally in assists. Bluder sees more scoring in Logic’s future, but not at the expense of her passing.

“She worked hard on her 3-point shooting,” said Bluder. “She’s becoming more of a scoring threat, and we needed her to be such. I wouldn’t say her focus has changed. I believe she has added to her passing by having a shooting game.”

Doolittle will move to her more natural position when she slides into the center position created by the departure of Morgan Johnson. Bluder believes a season at power forward expanded Doolittle’s game.

“Some of the guard skills she learned playing on the perimeter last year is going to help her,” said Bluder. “She’s very familiar coming out and hitting that 15-foot shot for us, whether it’s at the high post or short corner. That makes her harder to guard than being strictly a back-to-the-basket-type player.”

Dixon started three games as a sophomore, but she played starter-like minutes for the Hawkeyes, averaging 23.2 per game. She earned the Sixth Player of the Year honor after making 78 3-pointers and shooting nearly 40 percent from distance.

“Melissa was probably one of the best sixth players in the entire United States, not just the Big Ten,” said Bluder. “She’s better this year. She worked on being able to beat people off the dribble drive so she would not be a one-dimensional player. Now she has the ability to get to the rim.”

Bluder calls the power forward position the team’s biggest question, but she likes her options in sophomores Kali Peschel and Claire Till or freshman Ally Disterhoft.

“Kali and Claire both have grown their games,” said Bluder. “They’re more confident, as you should be as sophomores. Both are playing much better than they did last year.

“Ally is a deceiving player, who can get off the floor and run. As a freshman, sometimes your uncertainty slows you down because you’re not exactly sure what you need to do. That’s the only thing slowing her down right now.”

Other returnees include Kathryn Reynolds, who Bluder says won’t be 100 percent comfortable until the Big Ten season after recovering from knee surgery, and sophomore center Nicole Smith.

Iowa has three freshmen on the roster in Disterhoft, Alexa Kastanek and walk-on forward Hailey Schneden. Disterhoft and Kastanek are going to be thrown into the fire.

“Both Ally and Alexa are going to be asked to contribute immediately, but both are capable,” said Bluder. “Both come out of high school as top-100 players, and they want to compete.”

With an undersized roster, Bluder says she will fit her style to the personnel.

“We don’t have significant height behind Bethany, but we have players that can play the position,” said Bluder. “We can change our style to fit what we have, whether we have Bethany or Nicole at center or an untraditional center in there.”

Bluder likes the fact that officials are being charged with limiting the physical nature of the game.

“If it is true, that will better for us,” said Bluder. “The way people could stop us before is they beat the heck out of us and stopped us from cutting. They would try to out-physical us. If you take that out of the game and let our offense flow, we’re pretty good. We can score a lot of points.”

The Hawkeyes will participate in the Black and Gold Blowout tomorrow beginning at 8 p.m. (CT) and host Concordia-St. Paul in an exhibition Sunday, Nov. 3.