Bluder’s Bunch tired of moral victories


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Plenty of games could have been categorized as “moral victories” for the Iowa women’s basketball team this season.

There was the loss to then-No.19 Kansas on Nov. 18, 2009, when the Hawkeyes led the Jayhawks by three points with as little as 6:41 remaining in the game.

There was the three-point loss to now No. 16 West Virginia 10 days later on Nov. 28, 2009, which came down to the final buzzer.

There were the two Big Ten road losses in overtime, one by four points at Penn State on Dec. 28, 2009, and one by three points at Minnesota on Jan. 3.

With a squad highlighted by nine underclassmen, the Hawkeyes have heard plenty of outside talk about their bright future.

One of those youngsters, freshman center Morgan Johnson, is over that. She doesn’t buy into moral victories. And she’s not alone.

“We’re all getting sick of the, ‘You’re too young’ excuse — ‘You’re going to be fine next year,’ ” freshman center Morgan Johnson said. “We’re ready to do things this year.”

Johnson and her teammates won’t have to wait long for another opportunity. Iowa (10-10, 3-6) will face Purdue (11-10, 6-4) in Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 2 p.m. Jan. 31. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.

After losing a season-high four-straight games, knocking off the Boilermarkers would be the Hawkeyes’ third-straight Big Ten win.

Iowa’s first consecutive wins in a month — at Illinois on Jan. 21 and against Northwestern on Jan. 24 — have boosted the morale of Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder’s squad.

“I think after we won the Illinois game, we were 2-6 in the conference, and I think I might have been the happiest coach sitting at 2-6 at that point,” Bluder said and laughed. “It just does so much for you to win. All of a sudden those little injuries don’t hurt quite as much, or you have a little bit more energy as coaches than you did before. … It’s really tough, and you have to constantly challenge yourself to pick yourself up to go into practice to be energetic, because it is hard to do.”

Freshman starters Johnson and Jaime Printy don’t discount the significance of the mini-win streak, either.

After so many close losses, Johnson said, the two wins gave her teammates something to be proud of, and Printy said the last two wins provide confidence.

If the Hawkeyes are going to extend their streak, they will have to excise demons that aren’t yet 2 weeks old.

Iowa was dismantled by Purdue, 81-59, on Jan. 17 in West Lafayette, Ind.

And the Boilermakers aren’t running empty on confidence, either. Purdue is fresh off a 63-61 win over No. 4 Ohio State on Jan. 25. The defeat was the Buckeyes’ first Big Ten loss and only their second loss overall.

With Purdue having played Thursday night, Bluder hopes the Boilermakers’ quick turnaround will favor her club.

“Purdue is undefeated on its home court in conference play — it plays extremely well,” Bluder said. “But it hasn’t won away from Mackey Arena [in Big Ten play], so it’s kind of an up-and-down team, and, hopefully, that will keep going through the weekend, and we can get a good win.”

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