Iowa women's basketball hosts WNIT semifinal


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Iowa will have a height advantage in tonight’s Preseason WNIT semifinals against Middle Tennessee State, but that’s not enough to comfort coach Lisa Bluder.

The average height of Iowa’s (2-0) starting five is around 6 feet, compared to 5-10 from the Blue Raiders (2-0). That comparison, though, was quickly set aside when Bluder talked about Middle Tennessee’s athleticism.

“They’re extremely quick, great jumpers, and they outscored their first two opponents by 30 points,” the 13-year head coach said. “They’re used to winning. This is a quality opponent, and to be able to play them on your home court this early in the year, I think, is very unusual, and we want to make the most of it.”

“Athletic” was a term Bluder associated with many of last year’s opponents — most notably California, which bounced Iowa from the NCAA Tournament’s first round in March.

Senior Morgan Johnson was reminded of California’s athleticism. She chuckled, knowing what the question implied. But the center’s response radiated confidence, mainly because this year’s team is different from the group that took the court last March.

She also said basic fundamentals would play a role in defeating the Blue Raiders tonight.

“We need to focus on fundamentals — boxing out, not getting exploited by their athletic ability,” the senior said. “Really keeping our composure is going to be key.”

That composure might be best served in the frontcourt matchups for the Hawkeyes, whose size advantage will come in handy to counter Middle Tennessee State forwards and centers. The height of both 6-5 Johnson and 6-4 Bethany Doolittle at power forward could be lethal in the paint and may result in plenty of baskets.

Scoring inside is a focus for Iowa tonight, as is limiting mistakes The Black and Gold turned the ball over 23 times to Illinois State on Nov. 11. Having seen a press against the Redbirds is going to come in handy tonight when Iowa faces an even tougher press against Middle Tennessee.The Hawkeyes have proven they can break the press, but it will be important for them to slow down their pace of play in order to implement offensive schemes and game plans.

“We have confidence in [facing] the press … We broke it very well [against Illinois State],” Bluder said. “We’re going to have to take care of the ball. We can’t have those unforced turnovers against any good team and expect to win.”

Sam Logic had 6 of those 23 turnovers against the Redbirds, and Bluder said it was due in part to her point guard wanting to rush plays. Logic knows her performance wasn’t the best, and even though Iowa got the win, the head coach wants the sophomore to put that game behind her.

The team’s goal was to make the Nov. 18 Preseason WNIT championship game, where they would face either Georgetown or North Carolina if they win tonight.

But in order for Iowa to achieve its goal, Logic knows she can’t have games where turnovers are an issue.

“When you win those games, it’s promising,” she said. “You just have to bounce back and limit games like that.”

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