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Lack of size no worry for Hawkeyes

BY JACOB SHEYKO | OCTOBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s basketball team is missing one ingredient — size.

Gone are the days of the Hawkeyes with two post players. Instead, this season’s Hawkeye squad will usher in a new era of Iowa basketball that could best be described as run-and-gun.

“I think a lot of the girls on the team want to run,” Theairra Taylor said. “Coach Bluder wants us to go; she’s encouraging us to go. That’s the style of ball I like to play.”

With the graduation of Morgan Johnson, the size of the Hawkeyes is limited. The only players taller than 6-2 are sophomore Nicole Smith and junior Bethany Doolittle.

So to compensate for their lack of size, the Hawkeyes will rely on a myriad of players to fill in at power-forward. Two early candidates are sophomores Claire Till and Kali Peschel, who usually play guard.

Till and Peschel each saw limited time as freshmen last season. But according to Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder, they have taken huge strides in their games.

“I think Kali and Claire both have grown their games,” Bluder said. “I think they’re more confident, as you should be as a sophomore.”

The final option is Ally Disterhoft. During the course of the season, Disterhoft might play anywhere from shooting guard to power forward.

For many teams, Iowa’s lack-of-size would be cause for panic. But many players believe that the up-pace, small-ball style of play adopted by this team best exploits the team’s strengths.

Sam Logic is especially excited about this style of play. The pass-first point guard, who set a school record last year for assists in a season, believes that the offense plays into her distributive qualities.

“I love it. That’s how I’ve always played,” Logic said. “I have always played in small lineups, just get up and go. I think we’re really focusing on that  and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Another player who feels this offense plays to their strengths is junior guard Melissa Dixon. Dixon’s long-range shooting should be more dangerous than ever when combined with the Hawkeyes tempo.

“It’s been a lot of fun this year,” Dixon said. “We’ve been working a lot in practices with all five of us running because we all get up and down the court really fast.”

Another perceived strength of this Iowa squad is its athleticism. What the Hawkeyes have lost in size they plan to make up for in pace. They hope that in situations in which they are playing with a four-guard lineup, opposing teams will have a hard time keeping pace with them and have to adjust.

One of these athletes returning to top form is Taylor — the lone senior who is now two seasons removed from her last ACL injury.

“It’s been fun in practice watching her. I think she’s one of Sam’s favorite targets in the fast break,” Bluder said. “I expect her to elevate her production this year.”

The small nature of this team doesn’t mean that the frontcourt is nonexistent. Instead, Iowa returns one of its top players from last season’s squad in Doolittle.

Last season, Doolittle was asked to step away from her natural position of center to play power forward. Returning to the center position, she believes there is a lot to gain from last season’s experience.

“Being a 4, you have more range, and you’re more comfortable farther from the basket,” Doolittle said. “[The time at power forward] really helped me become more comfortable out there.”

The Hawkeyes may lack size, but they certainly won’t lack excitement. This year’s team fully expects to live up to the standard that has been set by countless Hawkeye teams before them.

“Now it’s really up to me and my staff,” Bluder said. “And the women wearing those Hawkeye jerseys to make sure that we’re back there again on March 23 playing in Carver Hawkeye Arena for our seventh-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.”


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