Praise for Bluder rolls in


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Head coach Lisa Bluder on Tuesday said she would have thought people crazy had they told her the Iowa women’s basketball team would finish third in the conference.

After all, it had buried itself in the Big Ten standings before the start of the spring semester.

And after an 81-59 stomping by Purdue on Jan. 17, the Hawkeyes stood 1-6 in the conference. Team morale and expectations were low.

Cut to a month-and-a-half later: The Hawkeyes are 9-2 in their final 11 Big Ten games with a third-place finish and a first-round bye in this week’s Big Ten Tournament, leading Bluder to her third Big Ten Coach of the Year honor. She also won the award in 2001 and 2008.

Bluder credited her players and coaching staff for the award during Tuesday’s press conference. The 10th-year head coach noted that any time a coach is honored, it’s because of team success.

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Nonetheless, this year has been special for her because of the adversity faced along the way.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever lived through a year like this before,” she said. “That’s what makes it special because it’s unique, and we’ve had to overcome a lot.”

Three season-ending injuries left the coach with eight active scholarship players. Of those eight, four are freshmen.

So how did such a young team survive the grueling Big Ten, let alone flourish to lock up a No. 3 seed and a possible at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament?

It wasn’t secret coaching magic. Not according to Bluder, at least.

Instead, she lauded the maturation of her youngsters.

“It just shows you the power of positive thinking with our players,” she said. “Our freshmen really grew up. They became a part of the team instead of just watching the action. They understood they were to be the action at this point.”

Just as she was quick to deflect praise to her players, her players wasted no time in complimenting the style that Bluder employed this season.

Freshman Jaime Printy said Bluder kept practices fun. Junior Kachine Alexander said she was impressed with Bluder’s ability to adjust her methods to suit a younger team.

Alexander said her first two years as a Hawkeye were similar in regards to practice, but she noted this year has been different. The team has practiced less and played numerous children’s games, such as dodge ball and Simon says.

She said things had to be kept fresh, unlike her previous two seasons, in which both teams boasted five seniors.

“I have the ultimate respect for Coach Bluder,” Alexander said. “After this year, showing everybody who doubted her in anyway that she is a great coach. She has brought us to where we are now.”

Hawkeye student-athletes weren’t the only ones complimenting Bluder’s work this season. Bluder received plenty of praise from her peers during Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference.

Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp said Bluder has done a phenomenal job.

“They could have been rock bottom,” Versyp said. “How she’s handled their group and how they have pulled around one another, just an unbelievable job from top-to-bottom.”

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