March 26, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
OKLAHOMA CITY — Lanes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, are painted black. At Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, they are blue.
The Hawkeye women’s basketball team was 18-0 on its black-laned home court this season, and they aim for a two-game winning streak Friday and Sunday on the blue paint at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“That’s blue paint, Hawks, not black paint,” University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder yelled to her team during practice Thursday. “Make it your paint, Hawks.”
No. 15 Iowa (26-7) is a day from tangling with perennial power and sixth-ranked Baylor (32-3) in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. For luck, several Hawkeyes brought pieces of net with them to Oklahoma that they cut down March 22 after an 88-70 win over Miami (Florida) to finish a school-record undefeated season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. As usual, they will all “high-five” a traveling Tiger Hawk logo before exiting their locker room and hit the court against the Bears.
“We’re leaving everything else behind when we hit that Tiger Hawk and we’re giving everything we have to the Iowa Hawkeyes right then,” Bluder said Thursday at a news conference in Chesapeake Energy Arena. “Really, home is about the people and we have everybody we need with us right here to make this a home-court advantage.”
“We’re leaving everything else behind when we hit that Tiger Hawk and we’re giving everything we have to the Iowa Hawkeyes right then. Really, home is about the people and we have everybody we need with us right here to make this a home-court advantage.”
UI basketball coach
Bluder and seniors Melissa Dixon, Bethany Doolittle, and Samantha Logic participated in a news conference with local and national media Thursday before practicing for 90 minutes at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Logic said talent-wise and experience-wise, all things pointed to Iowa reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996.
“At the beginning of the season we set short-term goals first, then pre-conference, conference, and then postseason goals,” Logic said. “From the beginning of the year we felt like (the Sweet 16) was where we should be.”
Bluder said her team thrives on entering the game as an underdog.
“We’re kind of the last ones to the party here,” Bluder said. The other three teams in the Regional are Baylor, Notre Dame, and Stanford. “The other three schools are used to being in this ebvironment and they have won national championships except for me. Everybody should be for the Iowa Hawkeyes, we’ll take everybody’s support from Oklahoma City.”
Baylor last won an NCAA Championship in 2012, Notre Dame in 2001, and Stanford in 1992.
The Bears are coached by Kim Mulkey, who in 15 years as head coach, has compiled a record of 436-89 with two national championships. This is the first meeting between Iowa and Baylor.
“We will prepare for anything and everything that we think we could possibly see,” Mulkey said.
None of the four women’s basketball teams will beat Mother Nature at taking Oklahoma City by storm. A tornado touched down near the Hawkeyes’ hotel Wednesday and there was plenty of rain and hail. The Hawkeyes were eating at The Mantel restaurant when a sign or roof of the restaurant briefly caught on fire.
“Quite a few fire trucks pulled up in front and my daughter saw a fireman run through with a ladder in hand,” Bluder said. “That’s when we figured something was wrong. But they never got us out, and my steak was still medium rare, so it was all OK.”
The Hawkeyes and Bears tip off at 6:30 p.m. (CT) on Friday from Chesapeake Energy Arena. The game will be televised by ESPN2.