Feb. 25, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — With two regular season games remaining, the 16th ranked University of Iowa women’s basketball team is focused, positive, upbeat, and ready to go.
Hardly sounds like a team on a two-game losing skid. But regardless of the final score at any point of the season, it has been a staple attitude of this Hawkeye team, especially with the current four-member senior class in charge.
“They approach every practice the same way,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said Wednesday during a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Whether we win or lose, they come back and are working hard all the time.”
The Hawkeyes spent four of their last five games on the road. For the final two games, they will be at home, sweet home, a venue where they have won all 14 times this season. Iowa (21-6 overall, 12-4 Big Ten) takes on Wisconsin (8-18, 4-12) Thursday at 7 p.m. (CT) and Minnesota (22-7, 11-6) Sunday at 2 p.m.
“It was a grind to go through that much traveling in a short amount of time,” Bluder said. “The players missed a lot of classes and we never got to unpack our suitcases. Now we have the opportunity to control our own destiny on our home court. I don’t know what you could ask for that would be better than that.”
Iowa has a chance to go 16-0 at home this season. The school record is 15-0 set by the Final Four Hawkeyes of 1992-93. Ironically, that team lost back-to-back road games near the end of the regular season before rattling off four straight wins to reach the Final Four.
“It’s another opportunity for our women to put their name on another record,” Bluder said. “We want it.”
It would also be an appropriate close to remarkable careers of seniors Melissa Dixon, Bethany Doolittle, Samantha Logic, and Kathryn Reynolds. Dixon, Doolittle, and Logic all scored more than 1,000 points in their careers. Doolittle blocked shots, Dixon hit 3s, and Reynolds flashed leadership skills not often seen in someone with less than 250 minutes of playing time.
And then there is Logic. She was the centerpiece to the recruiting class, but she was also an unknown when she toured campus as a high school sophomore. Logic is an icon now, leaving as one of the greatest women’s college basketball players of all time.
“They have done a great job as far as putting together wins (88-40 career record). It is a group that leaves here most likely playing every year in the NCAA Tournament. That’s something. This is a great group ever since they walked onto campus.”
UI basketball coach
“Iowa didn’t even know me that well — if at all — at that point,” Logic said. “But they still took the time for me and I got that gut feeling walking on campus.”
Logic enters her final two regular season home games with 1,436 points, 868 rebounds, 831 assists, and 249 steals — the only NCAA women’s basketball player to reach the 1,400-800-800-200 club.
“That is the most complete player maybe in history and she is in our locker room with our team,” Bluder said. “You can’t ask for somebody better than that to lead your team.”
Iowa defeated Wisconsin, 87-75, on Feb. 8 in Madison, Wisconsin. The Badgers have gone 0-4 since, but they played close games against Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland, and Northwestern, teams with a combined 72.7 conference winning percentage.
Thursday’s contest is the annual “Pink Game” intended to raise awareness for breast cancer. Bluder and every Hawkeye starter will be accompanied in pregame introductions by a breast cancer survivor. It will be more personal for Dixon, who will escort her mother, Cindy.
“It is going to mean a lot and it will be a cool experience for both of us,” Dixon said. “It’s an awesome thing we’re doing this year and we’re looking forward to it.”
That will be followed by a rematch Sunday against Minnesota. The Gophers won, 93-80, on Feb. 17 in Minneapolis. It will be Senior Night for Iowa. Bluder doesn’t expect many dry eyes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena after the game.
“They have done a great job as far as putting together wins (88-40 career record),” Bluder said of the seniors. “It is a group that leaves here most likely playing every year in the NCAA Tournament. That’s something. This is a great group ever since they walked onto campus.”
Iowa can also lock the No. 2 seed for the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament from March 4-8 at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. The second seed receives plenty of rest and would not play its first postseason game until March 6.
“We talk about it some but we don’t dwell on it,” Bluder said. “Education is a good thing and they need to know what they are playing for. They need to know what’s at stake, but not so much that it’s hammered into them all the time where it builds pressure.”