Jan. 5, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Lisa Bluder knows her University of Iowa women’s basketball program is moving forward. On Thursday, the No. 23 Hawkeyes are moving on to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Regardless of the opponent, playing away from home in the Big Ten Conference makes Bluder apprehensive.
“I’m worried we’re going on the road and playing in the Big Ten,” Bluder said Tuesday at a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We haven’t even talked about Maryland (on Sunday at home). I don’t even know if the players know (the game against Maryland is) coming up. They are smart about that and we have great leaders.”
Iowa (12-2 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten) is 3-1 in true road games this season and opened the league slate with a 74-68 victory at Nebraska. Michigan is somewhat of an anomaly at 8-5, 0-2. The Wolverines are 1-5 in their last six games, but the margin of defeat in those five games is 7.4 points per game with setbacks by two points to Purdue, one point at Eastern Michigan, and in overtime at Indiana.
“I’m impressed with what they have done with such a young team,” Bluder said.
Michigan is third in the Big Ten in points per game (80.1) with a plus-18.9 margin of victory. The starting lineup for the Wolverines includes a senior, junior, two sophomores, and freshman. Michigan sophomore Katelynn Flaherty is third in the Big Ten in scoring at 21 points per game; freshman teammate Hallie Thome is second in field goal percentage (65.3).
Michigan won’t be the only young team in the Crisler Center. During a 69-65 win against Rutgers on Monday, the Hawkeyes started a senior, two juniors, and two sophomores.
“We have tried to break it down and take it game by game for this team,” said junior captain Ally Disterhoft. “It has been an accomplishment to start 2-0 (in conference) and we’re happy about that because the two wins have been tough and we earned those. It would be huge and it would give us momentum going forward and give us more confidence.”
“Every game is tough from top to bottom in the Big Ten and going on the road is an even tougher challenge. We have been playing well on the road this year, so we’re confident with that. We’re looking to build upon the fact we have started 2-0 in the Big Ten.”
Sophomore point guard Whitney Jennings will play her 49th career game when the Hawkeyes take on Michigan. Jennings scored all 10 of her points in the fourth quarter against Rutgers.
“Every game is tough from top to bottom in the Big Ten and going on the road is an even tougher challenge,” Jennings said. “We have been playing well on the road this year, so we’re confident with that. We’re looking to build upon the fact we have started 2-0 in the Big Ten.”
Iowa defeated the Wolverines, 76-70, last season at home; the Hawkeyes won, 74-70, the last times these teams met in Ann Arbor.
“We have a long conference season ahead of us and we would love to be 3-0,” Bluder said. “Just getting another road win in the Big Ten.”
The scoreboard in Carver-Hawkeye Arena promises to get a workout Sunday when No. 8 Maryland comes to Mediacom Court. The Terrapins average 87.1 points a game; Iowa averages 75.5. It will be the third game in seven days for the Hawkeyes.
“If it’s a neck-and-neck game, we’re playing to win it,” Bluder said. “We’ll worry about rest the next day in practice.”
Maryland is 12-2, 1-1and ranks second in the nation in scoring margin at plus-32.2 points per game and first in rebounding margin at plus-19.2 per game.
Iowa and Michigan will tip off at 6 p.m. (CT) on Thursday; the Hawkeyes and Maryland begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday.