Feb. 9, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When University of Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder references the future of Hawkeye women’s basketball, she looks at upcoming games, not seasons.
Everyone knows the young Hawkeyes (15-9 overall, 5-7 Big Ten) could easily have 18 wins right now, had they held double-digit second-half leads at Michigan, Michigan State, and Indiana. But the truth is, Iowa is 3-7 since earning impressive league victories at Nebraska and at home against Rutgers to begin conference play.
“You have to build for the future and when I say future, I don’t mean next year, I mean these next six (regular season) games,” Bluder said Tuesday during a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We’re getting better and that is to be expected with a young team. Good things are happening.”
Now the Hawkeyes face one of their biggest challenges of the season in No. 7 Ohio State (19-4, 11-1), a team fresh off a season sweep of No. 5 Maryland. The Buckeyes are in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten and they average 85.7 points per game.
“This is a team that scores at will,” Bluder said. “It is a big challenge ahead of us coming off a disheartening loss against Michigan State. There are some good things there: we out-rebounded Michigan State (35-29) and we were one point down with 30 seconds to go against the No. 14 team in the country. We have to build on that and try to make noise in the last six games, but we know it will be a tough challenge against Ohio State.”
The final six regular season games are Ohio State, at Minnesota (Feb. 15), Purdue (Feb. 18), Indiana (Feb. 21), at Penn State (Feb. 24) and Illinois (Feb. 27).
“We can play with all these teams and we’re capable of beating them,” UI junior Ally Disterhoft said. “We know that and that is what can be frustrating at times: we know we believe we’re better than a lot of these teams we have lost to. It comes down to executing toward the end of the game.
“You have to build for the future and when I say future, I don’t mean next year, I mean these next six (regular season) games. We’re getting better and that is to be expected with a young team. Good things are happening.”
UI basketball coach
“The positives are that we know we are capable of beating these teams and we know that once we get these things put together that will happen. In the meantime we need to stick to it.”
While Ohio State is on top of the standings, the Buckeyes do not lead in any statistical category. They are second in scoring offense (85.7), free throw percentage (76.4), 3-point field goals per game (7.9), and turnover margin (plus-4.7), and third in scoring margin (plus-12.5), field goal percentage (48.0), and blocked shots per game (4.9).
Ohio State sophomore Kelsey Mitchell is second in the Big Ten in scoring (25.1 points per game) and tied for first with 78 3-point field goals. Mitchell and senior Ameryst Alston combine for nearly 33 field goal attempts per game.
“We will have to be on our `A game’ defensively,” Disterhoft said. “Those two get up a lot of shots during the course of a game. We’re going to have to focus in on that and be aware of where they are at all times on defense, whether we are in player or zone.”
A visible area of improvement for Iowa is rebounding. The Hawkeyes are (plus-1.5) after 12 Big Ten games and they have held an advantage on the boards in seven of 12 league contests.
“The rebounding is really good,” Bluder. “We have to keep staying positive with the team and keep building on that. This is an unbelievable grind in the Big Ten.”
Iowa and Ohio State tip off at 7:30 p.m. (CT) on Thursday on Mediacom Court. It is UI Faculty & Staff Appreciation Night with free admission for UI faculty or staff with a valid ID.