March 19, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The 15th-ranked University of Iowa women’s basketball team can look no further than last year’s NCAA Tournament when preparing for Friday’s game against 14th-seeded American.
The Hawkeyes defeated Marist, 87-65, last season on Mediacom Court in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 64.
“(American head coach) Megan Gebbia came from Marist, so they run a lot of the same things,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said during a Thursday news conference. “They are good at reading switches, reading screens, having a mess-up on a screening situation, and they run a lot of unusual screen action.
“I know it goes back a year, but (our players) remember preparing for that game very well.”
The Eagles, the Patriot League regular season and tournament champions, haven’t lost since January, bringing a 24-8 record into the NCAA Tournament. American is riding an 11-game winning streak, which includes a 23, seven, and 16 point win en route to the Patriot League Championship.
“I almost don’t want them to (think it’s just another game). I want them to understand, this is special. This is a great opportunity for us to be playing in a national tournament on our home court. It’s not just another game; it’s a very important game. It’s a special opportunity, and we want to take full advantage of that opportunity to play at home and to play again together for another game.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder
“We know American is a great basketball team,” said Bluder. “In two years, Megan has done a great job with the basketball program, bringing them to their first NCAA Tournament. I am hoping that experience and the home court will help us because we know it’s going to be a very good game tomorrow.”
It has been 12 days since the Hawkeyes last took the court — a 91-85 overtime loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes have used the break to focus on themselves in preparation for making an NCAA run.
“We have been having energized, focused practices,” said senior Bethany Doolittle. “That will help us out in this game Friday.”
For the first time in three seasons the Hawkeyes are the favorite to advance through to the Sweet 16. Senior Samantha Logic says that doesn’t change the team’s mindset.
“Whether we are seeded three, six, or eight like we have been our four years, we go into every game expecting that we have a chance to win if we play well enough,” said Logic. “I don’t think our team cares about what other people expect of us. We set our own expectations for every single game.”
Bluder has tried for consistency in preparing the Hawkeyes for American, but she says it is hard to say this is just another game.
“I almost don’t want them to (think it’s just another game),” said Bluder. “I want them to understand, this is special. This is a great opportunity for us to be playing in a national tournament on our home court.
“It’s not just another game; it’s a very important game. It’s a special opportunity, and we want to take full advantage of that opportunity to play at home and to play again together for another game.”
Bluder thanks the Iowa administration for embracing the opportunity to host the NCAA Tournament and making it an event.
“Kudos to our administration, for not only getting ready but also for embracing it; for wanting to have it here,” said Bluder. “We have the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships (March 26-28) going on at the same time. It’s incredible for us to have to stage both of these events, and then to want to do it.”
Friday’s game is set for a 1:30 p.m. (CT) tipoff, and it will be televised on ESPN2 with Clay Matvick and Katie Smith on the call. Bluder urges fans to come support the Hawkeyes.
“Everybody realizes this is the last time you may see this group (of seniors) on this court, and that’s a good incentive to get out and support us, no matter what time of the day and no matter what day of the week it is,” said Bluder.
“I am pretty sure they will show up. They have been so important to us all year, and they know it, so I am hoping the fans will be here tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.”