Hawkeyes close out regular season in style

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MARCH 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It was a bittersweet win for the Iowa women’s basketball team.

On one hand, the Hawkeyes closed out their regular season with an 81-56 win on the home floor of Illinois. On the other hand, because of No. 19 Purdue’s win over No. 16 Nebraska, Iowa will not get a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

But there is no mistaking that despite not receiving the bye, Iowa is one of the hottest teams entering postseason play.

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“We knew going out onto the floor that Nebraska had lost,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “You worry about a little bit of a letdown with that situation. But we talked about how we’re playing for win 23, we’re playing because we want to play.”

One cannot help but think of what could have been had Iowa not blown a 16-point halftime lead at Purdue a couple of weeks ago.

If an Ally Disterhoft jumper at the buzzer had gone down instead of rimming out, the Hawkeyes would be looking a whole different scenario, one that would have had them starting their postseason on Friday rather than Thursday.

“You want that four seed, you want that bye,” junior Sam Logic said. “We get to play an extra game now. No one has ever done it before, and that’s what were going to try to do.”

But fans can take comfort in knowing that the Hawkeye have won nine of their last 11 games and 11 of their last 14. All of this after the Hawkeyes dropped their first two Big Ten games and dropped out of the AP top-25 rankings.

The Hawkeyes’ win over the Fighting Illini was a showcase of what has made them so tough to play in the back end of this season.

Five Hawkeyes — all of the starters — average double digits in points. In their defeat of Illinois it was much of the same. Four Hawkeyes finished in double digits — Dixon had 9 points.

Because of this balance, Iowa has essentially been in every game this season, no matter the opponent.

With just two losses this season by a margin of greater than 10 points, the Hawkeyes have competed both at home and on the road with best the Big Ten has to offer.

“On any given night, I feel like any Big Ten team can compete with anyone,” senior Theairra Taylor said. “Especially us. I don’t think anybody looks at Iowa, and says it’s an easy game.”

For now, the next game on Iowa’s radar is their first-round matchup in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes will face the 12th seed in the tournament, which happens to be the Fighting Illini, a team that has become familiar in the past weeks.

Iowa has faced Illinois twice in the last three weeks. They’ve won both contests by an average margin of 19.5 points. The Hawkeyes will need to make it three wins against the Fighting Illini if they want to keep their aspirations of a Big Ten championship alive.

“You need to take the confidence that we swept them and beat them convincingly on their home floor,” Bluder said. “We need to take that confidence into the Big Ten Tournament.”

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