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Women’s basketball season begins season Friday

BY KYLE MANN | NOVEMBER 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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The 2014 season will officially begin for Iowa’s women’s basketball team today, as Lisa Bluder and her squad will take on South Carolina-Upstate in Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 6 p.m.

The Hawkeyes played an exhibition game against St. Ambrose last weekend and won, 119-57. This game, however, marks the beginning of record-keeping for the campaign.

The Spartans are members of the Atlantic Sun Conference, were 17-15 last season, and although not selected to the NCAA Tournament, performed well enough to participate in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

“They return five starters, so they’re very experienced,” Bluder said. “They’re very quick and guard-oriented, but at the same time they have a very good post. Their post is probably their best player. So our quickness will be tested, and our post defense will be tested.”

Junior guard Brittany Clency led the Spartans in scoring last season, registering 11.9 points per contest. For a perimeter-oriented team, Upstate’s .286 3-point percentage bodes well for Iowa.

Their leading post performer was center Brittany Starling with 10.5 points to go along with 7.9 rebounds per game. Starling stands only six feet tall, however, she will be at quite a disadvantage matched up with Iowa’s 6-4 Bethany Doolittle.

Given her size advantage, Doolittle will play a crucial role in this opening game of the season. She looked ready to follow her stellar junior season in the exhibition game, leading the team with 21 points and collecting 11 rebounds.

In addition to Doolittle, Melissa Dixon shone for Bluder’s offense. Coming off the bench as she recovers from a lingering injury, Dixon poured in 19 points on 45 percent shooting beyond the arc.

The offense was firing on all cylinders versus St. Ambrose, and Dixon says the objective today is to continue that.

“It’s really important to get out on Friday and get off to a good start, and start the season on a good note,” Dixon said. “That’s what we’re looking to do, and we’re really excited.”

Bluder’s starting lineup in the exhibition included Sam Logic, Doolittle, Ally Disterhoft, Kali Peschel — and in Dixon’s place, Whitney Jennings — a 5-5 freshman guard from Indiana.

It will be interesting to see if — or more likely, when — Dixon will rejoin the starting lineup, but until she does, Iowa fans can count on a strong performance from the unfamiliar face.

Jennings was Indiana’s Miss Basketball as a senior, and as a starter scored 8 points and had 5 assists with only 2 turnovers. She is quick with the ball and looks comfortable in the offense already.

“I’ll play the 1, 2, or maybe the 3 at times,” Jennings said. “I’ll just come in and provide some spark for the team.”

As to whether it will be her in the starting lineup, or Dixon, or both, Bluder has informed the team it’s going to be a game-day decision.

“She kind of talked to us about it [Thursday],” Dixon said. “She doesn’t know for sure yet; it’s not going to be set. She’s going to try some things and move things around until she can get a feel for who the starting five are.”

Follow @KyleFMann for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.


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