By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Everyone loves games when your team scores more than 100 points by shooting better than 50 percent from the field. The University of Iowa women’s basketball team lived that Jan. 25 with an impressive win over Ohio State.
But the reality of starting one senior, one junior, two sophomores, and one freshman — like the Hawkeyes do — is that games like Sunday’s lopsided home loss to Nebraska will also occur.
“Last week was a complete roller coaster of emotions,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said Wednesday during a teleconference. “You have the highest of highs beating Ohio State (103-89) and then kind of a low point in a sub-par performance against Nebraska (a 92-74 loss).”
Iowa (16-6 overall, 4-5 Big Ten) looks to get back on track at Michigan State (14-8, 4-5) on Thursday. Tip-off is 5 p.m. (CT). Will the Hawkeyes be the group that won seven in a row in December, or the team that went 2-5 in January?
“We all grow differently, we all mature differently, we all handle different situations differently,” Bluder said. “Experience means something and experience is a valuable teacher — (many of our key players) don’t have that one element of been there, done it, know what to expect.”
The contest against the Spartans kicks off a crucial two-game week for Iowa. The Hawkeyes are looking for at least four wins in their final seven regular season games to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee with a .500 record in the Big Ten Conference.
“8-8 in the Big Ten is fine, but we’ll sit on pins and needles for that week and a half,” Bluder said of waiting for the selection show March 12. “I think where our conference is rated now as the third-best conference in America, that 8-8 would be fine, especially with what we did in the nonconference season.
“You always want to do as well as you can because you don’t want to leave anything to chance because it is all human decision. But certainly based on what we have so far and our RPI, we just need to get some Ws.”
An opportunity awaits Thursday in the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans have dropped their last three games, including a 69-65 setback to Indiana in their most recent home game. Four Michigan State players average between 10.5 and 10.8 points per game.
“They have a lot of All-Americans on this team, but they have a lot of depth as well,” Bluder said. “Especially a lot of depth at the inside, center position.
“Every game is important. Every time you get a win in the Big Ten it is huge as far as not only your RPI, but your resume for the selection committee. These last seven (regular season) games, and how we perform in the Big Ten Tournament, are important to what postseason tournament we are in.”
Iowa leads the all-time series with the Spartans, 36-28. The Hawkeyes won the lone meeting last season, defeating Michigan State 87-83 in overtime on Feb. 9, 2017, inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.