Head Coach Lisa Bluder Opening Statement
“It is step two in our in-state matchups. We’re coming off a little bit of a break and it has been nice for us. Last week was three games in seven days and it was a grind. Now having this week, even though they were spending time studying for their finals and having the stress of finals, it still feels like a refresher, maybe for us coaches, but them as well. They are well-rested, sharp, and ready to go into this game against UNI.
“We’re excited to have the second in-state rivalry on our home court against UNI. UNI has some good wins, notably Creighton and how they beat them. They’re coming off two good wins, including IUPUI, who you all know for three quarters we had our hands full with those guys. They went to their place and had a nice win there.
“UNI is a good team, fundamentally sound, well-coached, they work hard. With Megan Maahs being out, it hurts them. They’re third-leading scorer, best rebounder, but they have had two weeks to adjust. They have had two weeks of practice. They haven’t played since Dec. 4. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Who knows? You get a little rusty when you haven’t played, but it has given them time to adjust to life without Megan.”
How does that change things inside? That gives you an even bigger advantage.
“Yes, they don’t have the experience inside. Taylor (Hagen) is a little shorter than Megan (Maahs), but she had a little more girth. Certainly, they are going to attack us with the 3-ball, so that’s something we have to prepare for is limiting those 3-point shots. That might be even more so with them having Megan out.”
You have had more than a week off competition, finals week. What do you expect or how do teams react after that scenario and time off?
“Every team is a little different. Every team has their own personality. With this team, with three seniors in our starting lineup, that they are going to handle it well. They have come to practice, worked hard, and they have been focused. I feel like they will handle it well and use it with all the benefits — a little time off, rejuvenated, and ready to come out against UNI.”
What would you say your team’s personality is?
“For sure, the obvious ones are the chemistry of this team. They are amazing friends and great teammates. They are unselfish. I want them to understand, that sometimes they play better with a little chip on their block. I want them to play with a little more swag sometimes. That’s what I would like them to get.”
You guys didn’t pick up any new injuries this week?
“No. Nothing like that.”
Does Kathleen feel like she is back intertwined with things? Does it feel like this is the first time that you will have what you expected to have at the opening of things, full strength across the board?
“It has been a year since this team has been together like this. That takes a little time to adjust. Is Kathleen 100 percent? No, she has to play with that brace on. That hurts for someone that has the ball in their hand a lot, to have that brace on. We will be glad when that is off, but it isn’t going to be off in the near future. It does feel good to have this group back together. It was the UNI game last year where Tania went down. You worry about that being in her mind a little bit, but so far she has been aggressive and has not shied away from the contact or going to the hole.”
You talk about this being a mature team and being able to gain all the positive elements of having a week off. When you have everyone back together and refocused on these last two nonconference games and pushing into Big Ten season, what is resonating with this team and the message right now?
“Before Iowa State, we had one practice with our whole team. Before IUPUI, we had a total of three practices with our whole team. We have been set back a little because of that. This week has given us a little time to adjust to different rotations and Kathleen getting her timing back. This week has been good for all those things for us. Our message would be we want to get better every day. That’s overused, but it’s true. We don’t want to take any steps backward now, we want to continue climbing. I don’t think, right now to the point we were into the October schedule when we had all of us healthy. I don’t think we’re back to that point yet and that gives me optimism for what this team can do once we get all those pieces in sync again.”
The men have gone away from the home-and-home and now the Hy-Vee Classic. Do you like what this state has in women’s basketball as far as playing all three of the others?
“I think it is good for the state. We have good basketball players in the state. I have said this before but sometimes it hurts our RPI because the Missouri Valley has lost Creighton, lost Wichita State, and those were good schools in the Valley. Their conference as a whole, their RPI is going down. You’re playing two of them that I wish they were in difference conferences. So you weren’t playing two from the same conference. Does that mean they are not good? Absolutely not, but it doesn’t speak volumes for the rest of their conference. That hurts them and it hurts us because RPI impacts everyone’s RPI.”
UNI is around 100 and Drake is still in the top 10.
“Right. They will go down as the season goes on. They are fine now, but as the season progresses, their RPI will diminish because of the competition they are playing. Drake has done a great job of going out. What’s their schedule rank? It’s terrific, but they have to do that in the nonconference because once they get into the conference, it will decline.”
When you were at Drake and you were a mid-major coach, did it feel like you were banging your head because I know the Valley had good teams back then.
“You look at Missouri State, they were in the Final Four twice in that decade. At one time we had four teams from the MVC go to the NCAA Tournament. Creighton was in there. One time we finished as the fifth-best conference in America. Things change and unfortunately they lost some of their good schools and that has nothing to do with Drake or UNI. They had nothing to do with it, it’s just facts.”