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Iowa women to use winter break for self-improvement

BY KYLE MANN | DECEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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Finally, winter break is upon us, and everybody can take a moment to relax.

That is, everybody except Iowa’s in-season student-athletes, such as the women’s basketball team. The sports schedules don’t observe any sort of extended break period, so the Hawkeyes keep grinding through the holidays.

Though still practicing and working out regularly, however, games are few and far between.

Beginning with the Hawkeyes’ last game, versus Iowa State on Dec. 11, they will play only six games over the next five weeks.

With so much practice time and such limited opportunity to compete, it becomes imperative that head coach Lisa Bluder prevents the team from becoming lackadaisical during the break.

But first, Bluder did grant her players some extra time in the past week to study for finals.

“It’s finals week, and really our focus has been there, not on basketball the last few days, and it needs to be because we have a lot of really good students on our team,” Bluder said on Wednesday. “We want them to focus. We haven’t practiced Monday or Tuesday.”

The players was back and ready for practice Wednesday in preparation for a game at Drake on Dec. 21, after which the Hawks will go home to celebrate the holidays. Then, however, they will promptly return and again dive right into preparing for a game on Dec. 28. From there, it’s a lot of practice and not a lot of games.

In these down times, the players will use the opportunity for more refined and specific individual work that they hadn’t been able to do as much of during the hectic nonconference schedule.

“This week has been really focused on our individual self as a player and getting better from that aspect,” forward Kali Peschel said. “We haven’t had a lot of time in the past couple games and weeks to improve individually, so this was a huge time for us to improve fundamentally.”

Sometimes you’ve got to see the forest for the trees, and in that sense this midseason opportunity for extensive individual workouts could prove to be the best way to improve the team as a whole.

Without many chances to see the team improving against opponents, it may be the most efficient from a coach’s perspective to let the team improve by improving its pieces independently.

Bethany Doolittle concurred, recognizing that — obviously — the capabilities of the players affect the system of the team.

“We’ve been working on ourselves more than anything else,” she said. “Working on what we can improve as individuals in the team game.”

It seems like there’s an infinite amount of time ahead, so the Hawkeyes will have quite the opportunity to make strides, often an important characteristic of successful teams. The key in regards to what degree that improvement will be, Bluder predicts, will simply be to keep the team energized.

She doesn’t believe that will be a problem. At least for now, Iowa has its sights set on Drake and an unofficial state championship.

“One of our goals was to be state champs,” Bluder said. “Since we’ve already beaten UNI and Iowa State, we have one team — Drake — standing between us and our goal. I think that helps; I’m glad that there’s more meaning to this game.”

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


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