Bluder’s Bunch earns third-straight Big Ten victory


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Even though the Iowa women’s basketball team includes nine underclassmen, every player already has a diploma.

Prior to the Hawkeyes’ game at Illinois on Jan. 21, head coach Lisa Bluder and her assistants bestowed each of their players, including junior Kachine Alexander, with a Bachelor of Science in basketball.

“Coach Bluder came in with this whole outfit, hat, gown, everything. It was probably the funniest thing ever,” Alexander said. “After that, we just kind of had a stress relief. Everything just melted away. Then we played very well at Illinois and kept rolling from there.”

Apparently the ceremony’s timing was appropriate.

Since then, Iowa (11-10, 4-6 Big Ten) has reeled off three-straight wins — the latest of which was a 70-50 drubbing of Purdue (11-11, 6-5) on Sunday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Alexander and freshman Morgan Johnson led the way for the Hawkeyes, each scoring 16 points.

The mock graduation ceremony wasn’t the first time the 10th-year head coach has resorted to creative tactics to motivate her squad.

Two seasons ago, Bluder assigned her players homework. Each player had to write about her strengths as a player. That exercise was also successful — Iowa’s next game was an 87-43 victory over Northern Illinois on Dec. 8, 2007.

Bluder said those types of tactics help “keep it light.”

The graduation ceremony in particular helped them create the images “that they didn’t have to play like freshmen anymore. They didn’t have to play like sophomores anymore. That they needed to grow up.”

Iowa was just two weeks removed from a catastrophic 81-59 defeat at the hands of Sharon Versyp’s Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind., on Jan. 17.

On Sunday, Purdue was the team shocked from the game’s opening tip.

Much like the 24-8 run Purdue started Jan. 17’s game with, Sunday’s contest saw the Hawkeyes grab a 19-1 lead in the game’s first 7:22.

“[It was the] exact same type of game. Role reversal,” Versyp said. “Everything they needed to do to win the game, they brought it today.”

A K.K. Houser lay-up for Purdue cut Iowa’s lead to eight points with 13:45 left in the second half. Not even four minutes after that bucket, the Hawkeye lead had expanded to 17 points.

Five different Hawkeyes scored during Iowa’s 19-1 game-opening run. Balanced scoring remained a key, and Bluder received double-digit scoring from five different players. In addition to Alexander and Johnson, freshman Jaime Printy totaled 12 points, and freshman Gabby Machado and sophomore Kamille Wahlin both scored 11.

Iowa enjoyed the lopsided victory despite shooting just 23.8 percent on 3-pointers. However, the Hawkeyes out-rebounded the Boilermakers, 49-35.

“It’s nice to see some other parts of our game shine tonight,” Bluder said. “That’s what’s going to happen for us to be a good basketball team. We’re going to have to have that complete game.”

Johnson also collected 11 rebounds, and Alexander grabbed 10, giving both players double-doubles.

The last time two Hawkeyes posted double-doubles in the same game with points and rebounds was in a 91-82 win at Creighton on Dec. 10, 2004. Krista VandeVenter posted 19 points and 14 boards, and Jamie Cavey scored 20 and handled 10 caroms.

The Hawkeyes return to action on Thursday when they meet the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (21-3, 9-2) in Columbus.

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