IOWA CITY – This season has been one to remember for the Iowa women’s basketball team.
Records have been matched and broken – Coach Lisa Bluder became the all-time winningest coach at Iowa, Samantha Logic the all-time leader in assists, to name a few – and now the Hawkeyes enter the Big Ten tournament on a three-game winning streak.
Iowa gets Illinois in their opener at the Big Ten Tournament today at 1:30, fresh off beating the Illini, 81-56, on Sunday in Champaign, Ill. The winner of that game gets Purdue on Friday.
“We talk about how every game is different. We cannot get ready for Purdue, we are preparing for Illinois,” Bluder said in a teleconference on Tuesday. “That’s the disadvantage of being the five-seed over the four-seed.
“We have to prepare for Illinois because if we don’t play well that day, there will be no facing Purdue. Our full focus is on Illinois.”
It’s the second year in a row the Hawkeyes closed the regular season with the team they faced first at the conference tournament.
And while the situations are similar, Bluder said there’s not much to glean from last year’s experience that will apply.
“To me, it’s a wash – is there an advantage over one team or another? Absolutely not,” Bluder said. “What it does is make our scouting report a little easier for us coaches. We have one game film to watch versus multiple game films. So I don’t think it’s a big advantage or disadvantage, it’s just the way it pans out.”
Illinois Coach Matt Bollant said on Tuesday it will be a tall order for his Illini team to turn around so quickly, especially after such a big loss.
He heaped praise on players like Logic and Ally Disterhoft, both of whom earned All-Big Ten honors – Logic as a First Team member, and Disterhoft on the All-Freshmen Team. To challenge Iowa will require a much different performance than the one Illinois put forth on Sunday, Bollant said.
“We’re hoping that we be a different team on Thursday and that we play better,” Bollant said. “I didn’t feel like we did a great job in either half (on Sunday) finding their shooters and moving the flight of the ball. They did a great job of spacing the floor and moving it, and we’ve got to do a better job of matching up.
“Iowa has such balance that it’s hard to focus on one player. They have five players in double figures.”
So despite the records, success this season and having just come off a big win to their first-round opponent, Bluder insisted the Hawkeyes still have work to do.
Her players are confident, she said, but will take nothing for granted headed into the tournament.
“We need to point out to our players in practice the things we can improve on – of which there are many – from the game last Sunday (against Illinois),” Bluder said. “I think we have some confidence going into the game, and I think that’s good this time of year. But at the same time, I think our players are smart enough to know that every game is a new game and that we respect everyone in this conference because this conference is so good.”