Women's basketball heads to Corpus Christi for two games


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Lisa Bluder knows what kind of expectations have been put upon her team this season.

She emphasizes that there will be a "target on their backs" every game, especially in the nonconference portion of the schedule. She wants the Hawkeyes to emulate a certain kind of swagger every time they step into an opponent's gym.

For the Iowa women's basketball team, that mentality comes from the success the program experienced last season and the preseason national ranking it carries heading into this weekend's first slate of games.

Iowa will go on the road for its first two games of the season, traveling to Corpus Christi, Texas, for the Islander Tip-Off. The Hawkeyes will open the regular season at 5 p.m. today against Southern.

On Saturday, Bluder's squad will take on either Arkansas State or host school Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Bluder said it's nice for the Hawkeyes to be recognized in both major preseason polls — No. 22 by the AP and No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll — but that she doesn't put much stock into them.

"It's recognition of a job well done last year, and it's recognition that all five of our starters are back," the 11-year head coach said. "Now, it's up to our players and our staff working hard to maintain that and keep climbing higher in those polls.

"It's great, but it doesn't mean anything. We want to be there at the end of the year."

Those five returning starters have been a big source of the preseason buzz, but it doesn't seem to faze them, senior Kachine Alexander said.

Alexander — who has garnered the most attention — is coming off a double-double performance in Iowa's 101-59 exhibition win over Concordia-St. Paul on Sunday.

Junior Kelly Krei had a breakout performance against Concordia, scoring 25 points, and she hopes to carry that over when it counts. Krei is poised to be an impact player in her third season for the Hawkeyes, especially with three All-Big Ten guards surrounding her on the hardwood.

"It's hard to keep track of that fourth person on the perimeter," Bluder said. "And that is what we really wanted Kelly to do this year, is to not defer offensively. But instead when she's open, step up and shoot the ball, and shoot it with confidence and run the floor like she did [against Concordia]."

Despite last weekend's matchup being an exhibition, sophomore center Morgan Johnson said it is important to get live game action before beginning regular-season play.

Johnson noted that while the obvious goal is to get the two wins in Corpus Christi, there are particular things the Hawkeyes need to hone in on before facing tougher opponents.

"We want to improve defensively [this weekend], and that's always going to be a goal for us," she said. "And just getting our offense to really move into flow and work together."

Alexander agreed with her teammate's sentiments, and said Southern — who is picked to repeat as Southwestern Athletics Conference champions this year — is no pushover.

"I like the fact that we're starting on the road, because that gives us a challenge," Alexander said. "Being ranked 22nd, 25th isn't easy. Starting on the road is definitely going to be a test for us, to prove how our summer and our preseason has gone. But it's going to be very important that we come out with a 2-0 [record]."

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