Dec. 2, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — No one would dispute that the University of Iowa has a good women’s basketball team. Head coach Lisa Bluder knows what it takes to be great.
“You have to play well on the road,” Bluder said Tuesday at a news conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We have to get to that mindset that we’re going to play just as well on the road as we do at home.”
Iowa is 5-0 on Mediacom Court this season, averaging 90.4 points per game. They are 1-1 away from Iowa City, averaging 78 points a game.
The first true road test for the No. 19 Hawkeyes (6-1 overall) is Thursday at No. 7 Louisville (7-0) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Cardinals return two starters from a team that eliminated Iowa from the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 83-53.
Adding to the test is that Louisville has won 18 straight nonconference regular season home games.
“It has been amazing what they have done on their home court,” Bluder said. “We know this is a big challenge, and I’m interested to see how we respond to their crowd and physical play.”
The Hawkeyes are coming off their first two games away from home — a neutral site loss to Arkansas and a neutral site win against Gonzaga at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas. After falling by 10 points to the Razorbacks, Iowa bounced back to win by 12 against the Bulldogs.
“We were a little shocked the way we played (against Arkansas),” Bluder said. “We were disappointed in our play, we looked slow. We weren’t as sharp as we had been, and I think we bounced back well against Gonzaga.”
Bluder says there are two things she looks at when handed a postgame box score: rebound margin and offensive rebounds allowed. The numbers weren’t pretty in Las Vegas. Arkansas out-rebounded Iowa, 51-24, with 19 offensive rebounds; Gonzaga won the rebounding battle, 49-37, with 21 offensive rebounds.
“Everybody knows it’s a weakness for us now, so we have to continue to work on it hard in practice and be conscious of it and make a change,” Bluder said. “It is not a technique issue, it’s a being more aggressive issue. It is an issue of being more in that attack mode to go after the offensive rebound or go after that hit when we box out.”
Louisville is plus-9.5 in rebounding this season; Iowa is minus-1.6.
Iowa’s schedule doesn’t soften after the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Hawkeyes host Colorado from the Pac-12 on Dec. 7 and Iowa State from the Big 12 on Dec. 11. Last season Iowa lost to Colorado, 90-87, and to Iowa State, 83-70.
“The next three before finals is pretty tough,” Bluder said. “This is an important stretch for us to prepare for our Big Ten schedule, to get better, and hopefully get some quality wins that will help with the (NCAA) selection committee.”
Iowa and Louisville tip-off at 6 p.m. (CT) from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The Hawkeyes are 14-8 all-time against ACC opponents, including wins against Boston College and Syracuse last season.