Big Ten Tournament: Iowa women to have one more shot at Nebraska

BY BEN WOLFSON | MARCH 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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INDIANAPOLIS — Lisa Bluder and Company got the matchup they wanted as they enjoyed their first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

Sixth-seeded Nebraska thrashed 11-seed Northwestern, 88-56, in the first round on Thursday, ensuring the Huskers and Hawkeyes will meet for the third time this year.

Iowa lost both matchups in the regular season; the Hawkeyes fell, 77-72, on Jan. 8 and 60-53 on Jan 26.

Bluder seemed unfazed by the 0-2 record against the Big Ten's newest member when she spoke to the media before the tournament on Tuesday.

"The Nebraska game is interesting to me because they swept us," Bluder said. "As a competitor, you'd love to have the opportunity to go against them again."

A lot has changed since the teams last met in the part of the season Bluder referred to as Iowa's "low point."

Iowa was 3-5 in conference play after its second loss to Nebraska, but the Hawkeyes have since gone on an eight-game winning streak to end the regular season and clinch the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

Nebraska started 6-2 in conference, but is 4-4 since — including a triple-overtime victory against Purdue on Feb. 2 and a win over Ohio State in its regular-season finale.

"We're all hungry to play Nebraska," Iowa center Morgan Johnson said on Tuesday. "They've gotten us twice, so it would be nice to get them."

The Hawkeyes got their wish.

Nebraska set a Big Ten Tournament record when it scored 54 first-half points against Northwestern on Thursday.

The 54 points were more than Huskers managed in an entire game the last time they played Northwestern; they lost to the Wildcats, 63-51, on Feb. 16.

Nebraska started the game on an offensive tear and reached its 54-25 halftime lead with the help of a 24-0 run early in the half.

Husker forward Jordan Hooper presents a matchup problem for the Hawkeyes. The sophomore is listed at 6-2 and is able to make shots on the perimeter, while her size allows her to be effective in the post. She scored 17 points against Iowa on Jan. 8 and 22 on Jan. 26.

A major key to the game will be how fresh Hooper and the rest of Nebraska's players are. Because of the lopsided score in the Northwestern game, Huskers head coach Connie Yori was able to rest her starters most of the second half in preparation for their matchup with the Hawkeyes.

"It's huge," Yori said about the rest. "When Katie Simon, who has barely played for us, plays more minutes than Jordan Hooper [19 to Hooper's 16], that's a good thing."

The Huskers will need to be as fresh as possible to beat the Hawkeyes for the third time in a row, Yori said.

"[Both games against Iowa] came down to the wire, and we were fortunate to win two games," she said. "Iowa's a really good team and playing its best basketball right now … We'll have our hands full tomorrow."

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