Iowa travels to South Dakota State following finals week

BY JON FRANK | DECEMBER 17, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa Hawkeyes (9-1) today will head to Brookings, S.D., to face South Dakota State (4-5) in Frost Arena.

Despite the lopsided win-loss record, the RPI differential — Iowa is fifth in the nation, the Jackrabbits are 135th — and the Hawkeyes' 2-0 all-time record against South Dakota State, Saturday's matchup has head coach Lisa Bluder concerned about the security of her squad's No. 16 ranking.

"We have a target on our back," she said. "We will get their best shot, there is no doubt. Because for them to take down a top-25 team is a huge feather in their hat."

Although she didn't point to any specific matchup problems that might threaten her defensive scheme, the 11-year coach voiced her concern about athletes checking out mentally, playing poorly because of the lack of practice and conditioning, and simply taking the opponent lightly.

Despite its sub-.500 record, South Dakota State has the ability to upset talented teams.

Kansas State (8-1) nearly fell at home to the Jackrabbits earlier in the season. The Wildcats overcame South Dakota State to win, but they weren't able to seize the lead until the game's closing minutes.

Saturday's game is scheduled during a pivotal stage for Bluder's Bunch.

Members of the roster have final exams that extend into Friday as late as 8 p.m.

Moreover, Iowa hasn't competed since its victory over Iowa State on Dec. 8.

"What bothers me is you maybe get a little rusty over that nine days," Bluder said. "They're used to playing a lot of games now, so you worry are they going to get out of that game rhythm? And here South Dakota's getting a game on Thursday night. So that makes me nervous that they're going to have that game before our game."

During finals week, the team has eased up on practice. The team abstained from practicing Thursday and Monday, and other sessions were shortened because of hectic schedules and scholarly obligations.

Bluder voiced her cautious demeanor to her players. She stressed the importance of taking the Jackrabbits seriously and the challenges they will face during the road trip.

"We definitely need to not take this team lightly at all," sophomore guard Jaime Printy said. "[Coach Bluder] gave us a speech this morning about how they are a really good team. And if we just walk in the gym and think we're going to come away with a win, it's not going to happen."

On paper, the Hawkeyes have all the tangible advantages — a considerable size advantage, a noticeably more potent offense, and a squad orchestrated by a coach on the verge of 200 career wins, many tallied against Big Ten competition.

But South Dakota State's tendency to rotate its roster and incorporate a variety of bodies in the game plan could play against Iowa.

"We've been working really hard defensively," sophomore center Morgan Johnson said. "They've got a lot of bodies. Just getting in condition and shape and make sure we can stay with their deep bench."

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