March 1, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It will be a rise-and-shine sort of week for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
The ninth-seeded Hawkeyes (18-12 overall, 8-10 Big Ten) take on eighth-seeded Michigan (17-12, 9-9) on Thursday inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. (CT).
“It is an early tip, but I would rather have the early tip than waiting around all day in a hotel for that last game,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said Tuesday at a news conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “With the Big Ten Network you play all over the board any way; you have to be ready to play at any time. It’s the Big Ten Tournament, if you’re not ready to go at 11 a.m., something is wrong.”
If you’re a fan of the Hawkeyes, you have to feel confident heading into Thursday’s matchup. The last time the Big Ten Tournament was held in Indianapolis in 2014, Iowa won three straight games and advanced to the finals before falling to Nebraska. The Hawkeyes have won five of the last six meetings with Michigan and the game they lost (82-75 at Ann Arbor on Jan. 7), Iowa led by 17 points with 8:18 left in the third quarter.
“It’s the rubber game; they won at their place, we won at our place, now it’s on a neutral court,” Bluder said. “It should be a tremendous game. It will be a difficult week, but we’re going to take it one game at a time. We want to get that Michigan game and then you never know what can happen. It’s four days of basketball, so let’s play our best four days of the year.”
Three weeks after losing at Michigan, the Hawkeyes overcame a nine-point second-quarter deficit and downed the Wolverines, 85-69, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa has outscored Michigan in five of six quarters this season (they tied in two quarters).
The Wolverines had won five of six games before losing at Rutgers, 72-50, on Sunday. Michigan is led by sophomore Katelynn Flaherty, a first-team All-Big Ten selection. Flaherty averages 22.3 points a game and shoots better than 40 percent from 3-point range. In the first quarter of the rematch in Iowa City, Flaherty was 6-of-6 from the field (3-of-3 from distance) for 16 points. She finished with 31 points in 35 minutes.
“She’s going to get some. For us to say we’re going to stop her is ridiculous,” Bluder said. “We just need to slow her down and make sure she earns her shots. We want to make sure she doesn’t get the easy ones and get the confidence going.”
“We’re disappointed we’re a nine seed. You think of all the close games we were in: at Minnesota (78-76 loss at the buzzer), Michigan State on our home court (74-69 loss), at Indiana (79-74 loss after leading by 17), at Michigan (82-75 loss after leading by 17). I hope we have a chip on our shoulder that we want to prove we are better than what we’re seeded.”
UI basketball coach
The game will also feature two post players who were named to the Big TenAll-Freshman Team in Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (9.9 points, 6.6 rebounds per game) and Michigan’s Hallie Thome (14.5 points, 5.1 rebounds). Gustafson compiled better statistics in both head-to-head meetings with a combined 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Iowa is one of five Big Ten teams heading into the postseason with at least three victories in the last four games (Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, and Purdue are the others). The four other teams are all seeded in the top six of the tournament.
Bluder hopes her team is motivated by the fact that one more league win would have given the Hawkeyes a seventh seed.
“We’re disappointed we’re a nine seed,” Bluder said. “You think of all the close games we were in: at Minnesota (78-76 loss at the buzzer), Michigan State on our home court (74-69 loss), at Indiana (79-74 loss after leading by 17), at Michigan (82-75 loss after leading by 17). I hope we have a chip on our shoulder that we want to prove we are better than what we’re seeded.”
UI junior Ally Disterhoft scored in double figures in all 30 games this season and was named second-team All-Big Ten for a second year in a row. In two games against the Wolverines, she averaged 15 points, five rebounds and three assists per game.
“A blank slate is always nice, especially in a Big Ten Tournament setting,” Disterhoft said. “Obviously we’re going to remember those (three) wins (at the end of the regular season) and use this momentum going forward. It is 0-0 now and you can toss records out the window. Anything can happen at tournament time and we’re excited about that.”
The winner of the Iowa-Michigan game will play top-seeded Maryland on Friday at 11 a.m. (CT). The Terrapins defeated Iowa, 76-56, on Jan. 10 in Iowa City, snapping a 25-game winning streak in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Beating Michigan is our first and foremost priority,” Bluder said. “After that against Maryland, we’re realistic. We know they have lost only two games since coming into this conference. They are a savvy team and you hope they overlook us a little bit and we have to play our ‘A’ game without any mistakes in order to beat Maryland.”