Bluder’s Bunch faces Indiana


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Kachine Alexander is the self-proclaimed best texter on the Iowa women’s basketball team.

But none of her outgoing messages have meant more to the Hawkeyes than the one Alexander sent earlier this week.

Despite Sunday’s 72-66 defeat at Northwestern, just the second loss in Iowa’s last nine games, the junior guard used her BlackBerry to send the team a motivational message prior to Tuesday’s practice. It conveyed how excited she was about practice and, more importantly, how the Hawkeyes were going to go on another run.

This time, their NCAA Tournament lives depend on it.

Today, Iowa (15-12, 8-8) will get another chance to build its résumé when it meets Indiana (13-14, 6-10) at 7 p.m. in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

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Head coach Lisa Bluder couldn’t say enough about Alexander’s display of leadership.

“It’s tremendous,” Bluder said during her Wednesday press conference. “It’s one thing for the coaches to say it. It’s an entirely different thing when the players say it. It means a lot more coming from them.”

Alexander called the Northwestern loss a “wake-up call.” None of the Hawks were happy, but they were all grateful it came on Feb. 21, not later.

A wake-up call in the Big Ten Tournament would have been too late.

Instead, the Hawkeyes have a chance to learn and recover. They now know what remains ahead of them: Two more regular-season games, the one tonight and the team’s finale at Wisconsin on Feb. 28.

They also know two victories this week, along with a solid performance in next week’s Big Ten Tournament, would be significant in solidifying their currently fragile NCAA Tournament hopes.
Iowa isn’t the only Big Ten team on the bubble.

As of Wednesday afternoon, ESPN.com’s Charlie Creme projects Penn State, Michigan, and Purdue to be among the first eight teams left out of the 64-team NCAA field. Creme doesn’t have the Hawkeyes currently listed.

However, Iowa does own home victories over Michigan State and Wisconsin — two of the three Big Ten teams Creme has making the tournament.

Bluder said she feels her squad would be worthy of an NCAA at-large bid with two wins this week. A win at Wisconsin would give Iowa a season sweep over the Badgers, currently sitting at third in the conference.

“It’d be hard for [the selection committee] to take [Wisconsin] and not us, I would think,” Bluder said.

With so much on the line, the 10-year coach has made her players aware of the conference standings and scenarios for the first time this season.

They have battled through injuries, climbing from the conference cellar to emerge as a potential Cinderella story. And if the slipper fits and Iowa finds its way into the NCAA Tournament, freshman Jaime Printy said, she feels this season’s adversity will make things even more rewarding.

“Especially since everyone thought there was no way that we could possibly do it this year,” she said. “I think it’s really motivating to know we still have that chance and that opportunity.

“I just think it shows that we never gave up all season and we’re just going to fight until the end.”

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