Feb. 1, 2016
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder knew something had to change.
A week ago, the Hawkeyes were searching for answers. Iowa was in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and it had dropped five of six contests.
“The coaching staff sat down after that third loss in a row and said we had to change something,” Bluder said during a Monday news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We started pitching “a new season” to the team, and they bought in.”
Iowa hosted its second “Media Day” of the season, this one coming in late January in the team’s locker room. Players answered questions, the mood was light, and the players took it to heart.
“We were joking around, but also being serious,” said sophomore Chase Coley. “The coaches were being silly and fun. When they are in a good mood, we’re in a good mood.”
“These past two wins have felt different than anything we’ve done up to this point. People are developing more consistency and hitting their shots. It feels good to see some of that come together. I feel good about the place we’re in and how we’re playing. We have work to do, but this is the time you want to be executing and finish off the season strong. That’s our goal.”
UI junior Ally Disterhoft
The Hawkeyes embraced the fresh start mantra to the tune of posting consecutive double-digit victories. Iowa dropped Michigan, 85-69, on Mediacom Court on Jan. 28 before handing Northwestern a 15-point loss in Evanston, Illinois, on Jan. 31.
“These past two wins have felt different than anything we’ve done up to this point,” said junior Ally Disterhoft. “People are developing more consistency and hitting their shots. It feels good to see some of that come together.
“I feel good about the place we’re in and how we’re playing. We have work to do, but this is the time you want to be executing and finish off the season strong. That’s our goal.”
Part of the Hawkeyes’ success can be attributed to a role change with sophomore Chase Coley and freshman Megan Gustafson being on the court together to form an Iowa version of twin towers. Coley starts at power forward; Gustafson at center.
The duo had a strong week. Coley averaged 20 points and 8.5 rebounds, while shooting 75.9 percent from the field to be named to the Big Ten Player of the Week Honor Roll. Gustafson posted the first two double-doubles of her career.
“I love (the move to power forward),” said Coley. “It’s a different style of basketball and more the style I like to play. I like facing up to the basket and shooting little pull-up jumpers.
“It’s so much fun being on the floor with Megan. She’s a good target in the post; she posts big and strong and one of my strengths is getting it into the post. It’s fun to get her looks because I know if it’s going in, I’ll probably get an assist.”
Coley has a point; Gustafson is shooting 52.1 percent from the field in 22 games.
Iowa’s good mojo will be tested Thursday in a road date at Indiana. The Hoosiers are 13-9 overall and tied with the Hawkeyes in seventh place at 5-5 in the Big Ten standings.
“We’re in a good place now, but we know we have a difficult task going to Indiana,” said Bluder. “We’re going to try to do something that nobody else has done all year and that’s try to beat them at their place. They’re 9-0 on their home court and shoot the ball well at home, so it’s going to be a big challenge.”
Bluder believes it is a good time to head to Bloomington. The Hawkeyes are back to playing Iowa basketball: assists are up, turnovers are down, and more points are finding their way on to the scoreboard.
“It is one week (of the new season) and I understand that,” said Bluder, “But there is no better time to get on a roll than right now, so why not us?”
Thursday’s game will tip off from Assembly Hall at 6 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised live on BTN.