Iowa women begin winter break with Bradley


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The Iowa women's basketball team was on a roll at this time last year.

The Hawkeyes were 9-1, ranked fifth in the nation by RealTimeRPI, and a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament even before Big Ten play began.

This season? Not so much.

Iowa (6-4) has an RPI of 68 and has losses to defending national title winner Texas A&M, UNLV, Kansas State, and in-state rival Iowa State. Losing to A&M will probably end up helping Iowa's tournament résumé, but overtime losses to the Rebels and Wildcats may hurt.

Iowa's game on Saturday against Bradley marks the beginning of a stretch of three games in six days. The Hawkeyes last played on Dec. 9, a 98-45 win over Western Illinois, and they had no games this week because of final exams.

"You always like a week off to prepare for finals, but at the same time, you still want to play some games," senior Kamille Wahlin said. "I think our coaches do a good job when we get into practice for this week. We'll get a lot of scrimmaging time in. We'll be going up against the gray-squad guys, and that keeps our legs under us as far as game-wise."

Wahlin is averaging 8.7 points per game in a team-high 31 minutes per contest. The point guard is coming off perhaps her best performance of the season against Western Illinois — as she scored 14 points and added 5 assists.

Iowa — with the help of Wahlin, shooting guard Jaime Printy, and others — should be able to get off to a good start on its three-game stretch and winter-break schedule as a whole.

The Black and Gold faced Bradley last season and thrashed the Braves, 91-53. Bradley (7-3) heads into the game on a three-game winning streak; it last lost to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Nov. 28, by 10 points, but head coach Paula Buscher was convinced her players could bounce back, and they have.

"It's frustrating, because we had a lack of focus in the game tonight, and that's not normal of this team," Buscher told Bradley's student newspaper, The Scout, following the loss. "This team usually has a great level of focus, so it's a little bit frustrating. At the same time, we have to turn around and regroup."

Iowa will follow its matchup with Bradley with home games against Drake and Mississippi State next week to round out its nonconference schedule. The Hawkeyes will begin Big Ten play at home against Northwestern on Dec. 30.

The Hawkeyes will also travel to Columbus, Ohio, over winter break to take on No. 12 Ohio State in a game that will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network. The Buckeyes are 9-0 this season.

Bluder has maintained her team will be fine in the long run, but it has become apparent the Hawkeyes will need to string together some wins in bunches — and that begins on Saturday.

"We're a work in progress, and we're a team that is evolving. I think maybe people on the outside — including we coaches — will get a little frustrated because we are maybe not where we want to be," Bluder said. "There's no doubt in my mind that we are going to grow, and we are going to get better as the year goes on.

"Maybe we aren't where we want to be right now, but we are going to get there. I have complete faith that we will."

Follow DI Assistant Sports Editor Matt Cozzi on Twitter.

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