Iowa looks to upset No. 10 ranked Michigan State

BY JON FRANK | JANUARY 27, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa women’s basketball’s matchup today in Carver-Hawkeye Arena against No. 10 Michigan State provides the Hawkeyes (15-5, 3-4) a chance to reassert themselves in the Big Ten.

No. 18 Iowa fell to 3-4 in conference play on Monday after losing, 81-67, to Ohio State. Despite mounting a 33-32 halftime lead over the Buckeyes, the Hawkeyes came out flat in the second half and were outscored 49-34, consequentially sliding down to seventh in Big Ten standings.

“Coming off a heartbreaker like that, it’s always going to be in the back of your mind,” senior guard Kachine Alexander said.

Regardless, the Hawkeyes must press on and focus on the remainder of the schedule.

Today’s matchup provides the Hawkeyes an opportunity to make up for the loss and make a national statement by taking down a top-10 opponent for the first time this season.

Although Iowa fell to the Spartans, 63-60, on Jan. 13, the loss in East Lansing could have easily favored the Hawkeyes. A 3-point buzzer beater with 0.5 seconds remaining in regulation iced a victory for Michigan State and wiped out aspirations of an overtime rally for Iowa.

Nonetheless, a close loss is better than a lopsided pummeling.

“It gives us a little bit of optimism,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “If we would have gotten blown out, it would be hard to get confidence.”

A win won’t come easy, though.

Iowa will contend with a Spartan squad led by senior forward Kalisha Keane, who averages 15.9 points per game.

Moreover, Michigan State (18-2, 6-1) is off to its best start in school history. The Spartans have the best record in the Big Ten, as well as the highest scoring margin at plus 15.8 points. Their only two losses have come against the Buckeyes and the Baylor Bears — currently ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Records, past losses, and statistics aside, Iowa is confident going into tonight’s matchup knowing they will be backed by a home crowd.

“[Playing at home] is a huge advantage,” Bluder said.

The Hawkeyes are 8-1 at Carver this season. Their only home loss was on Jan. 2 at the hands of Michigan, 60-53.

But in order to pull the upset win over the conference leader, Iowa will have to crash the boards and earn second chance opportunities for points.

“We work on rebounding every day,” the 11-year Hawkeye coach said. “It’s the first stat I look at after the game.”

Outrebounding the Spartans could prove a difficult task for Iowa, though.

“Michigan State is a great rebounding team,” sophomore guard Jaime Printy said.

The Spartans lead the Big Ten with a plus 8.8 rebounding margin. The Hawkeyes are second in that category with a plus 5.8 margin.

“Every game’s important in the Big Ten. Everyone can beat everyone,” Alexander said. “We want to get back to .500.”

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