Nov. 17, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Head coach Lisa Bluder refers to her University of Iowa women’s basketball team as a work in progress. Junior captain Ally Disterhoft said being tested in wins over North Dakota and Tennessee Martin is a blessing in disguise.
Whatever you call it, the No. 23 Hawkeyes are off to their fourth consecutive 2-0 start to a season with a Thursday matchup against high-scoring Western Illinois up next.
“This is a work in progress with a young team and we need to use every practice and game to get better,” Bluder said Tuesday during a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
There lies the catch: practice time is at a premium in the game-heavy month of November. For the Hawkeyes, after winning Friday and Sunday, they had an off day Monday and then two days to prepare for Western Illinois.
“Once November hits, it’s hard because you have so many games to get in during the nonconference season,” Bluder said. “It’s hard to go back and correct problems from games (because) you’re preparing for the next game. That’s why I don’t like this month, it’s game after game. That’s why kids like this month. All they have to do is get ready for the next game and they don’t have to hear us harping on the film and watching their mistakes over and over and trying to learn from that.”
Disterhoft remembers the beginning of her sophomore season in 2014 when the Hawkeyes opened with victories by 51, 18, and 29 points before being seriously tested by Dayton during a seven-point win. She doesn’t mind having team weaknesses exposed from the outset.
“You would like to open your season with two blowout wins, but this is a blessing in disguise. We have been able to identify early some aspects of our game that we can improve upon. We would rather identify those earlier in the season than come Big Ten and say, `Whoa, we need to fix a few things.'”
UI junior guard
“You would like to open your season with two blowout wins, but this is a blessing in disguise,” Disterhoft said. “We have been able to identify early some aspects of our game that we can improve upon. We would rather identify those earlier in the season than come Big Ten and say, `Whoa, we need to fix a few things.'”
Bluder is excited to host the Fighting Leathernecks because it is the last time the Hawkeyes perform on Mediacom Court until Dec. 6. After playing Western Illinois, Iowa will have five games away from home at Cedar Falls, Iowa, Austin, Texas, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
Western Illinois, with three native Iowans on its roster, defeated Central Methodist, 108-46, on Nov. 13 and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, 78-74, on Nov. 15. The Leathernecks average 93 points a game by shooting 46.7 percent from the field, 37.9 percent from 3-point range, and 73.3 percent from the line.
“It’s important for us, not only for a victory, but to keep getting better,” Bluder said.
An area where the Hawkeyes could hold an edge is rebounding. While Iowa is +8.5 on the boards after two games, Western Illinois is -8.5. That should bode well for players like UI senior Kali Peschel, who averages 9.5 rebounds a game and 6-foot-3 freshman Megan Gustafson.
“We need to take advantage of rebounding and put together two good halves,” Gustafson said. “We have to play intense defense off the bat, that has been one of our issues coming in. Sometimes we start slow, but I feel we usually pick it up, but we need to start that earlier.”
Peschel has excelled in more ways than rebounding. She averages 12 points a game and shoots 47.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.
“(Kali) kept us in that first quarter against North Dakota, she crashed the boards well,” Bluder said. “This is what I expected out of Kali, it’s no surprise to me. She has been waiting these last three years to have a breakout year and I want this to be that type of year for her because she deserves it. She has been so great at staying positive and working hard that you want to see her reap those benefits in her senior campaign.”
The Hawkeyes and Western Illinois tip off at 7 p.m. (CT).