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Bluder's Bunch faces Virginia Tech in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa women's basketball team (4-2) will try to accomplish something tonight that it has never done before: win a game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Hawkeyes are 0-4 in the annual tournament. They lost to Georgia Tech (76-57) in 2007, Duke (71-47) in 2008, Boston College (72-67) in 2009, and North Carolina (79-67) last season.

This season, Virginia Tech will come to Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 2-4 record. The Hokies are riding a three-game losing streak that includes a 65-64 loss to Minnesota on a buzzer-beater in the SMC Concord Hilton Tournament in California last week.

"We've tried to explain to our players that we need to be driven to get a win here," head coach Lisa Bluder said during a teleconference on Tuesday. "We're winless in this Challenge, and we're trying to change that.

"… We played [Virginia Tech] last year in Cancún and had a decisive [72-43] victory. But they have a whole new coaching staff, a new level of commitment and mindset … it's a whole new year. You can't think about last year."

Iowa will play its first home game in two weeks.

The Hawkeyes played Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls over break and won, 78-74, before traveling to the Bahamas to face St. Johns and No. 4 Texas A&M in the Junkanoo Jam.

The Hawkeyes beat St. Johns, 60-52, but then lost to defending national champion Texas A&M, 74-58.

"We learned how defense can be played," Bluder said about her team's loss to the Aggies. "I really challenged the team afterwards with, 'Now you've seen it, what we want out of a team.' We can act like this, we can defend like this. Texas A&M made it hard for us to run any part of our offense by the way it defended, and there's really no reason we can't emulate that type of behavior."

Bluder said the Hokies employed a variety of presses on defense, and that the key to her team's success is its ability to stay calm under pressure.

The 12-year head coach acknowledged her team has performed inconsistently throughout the season so far and that it's important to get a large home crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on "Buck Night." All tickets cost $1.

"I thought we'd be 5-1 right now," Bluder said. "We have a tougher schedule than we did last year … it's really important [for a big crowd] because we haven't been home in two weeks, and then we have to go on the road for the next two games. It will really mean a lot to our players."

— by Ben Wolfson


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