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What to look for: Iowa vs. Drake

BY KYLE MANN | DECEMBER 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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A “state championship” is largely something that is left behind in high-school athletics, but the Iowa women’s basketball team will have an opportunity to claim just that, albeit unofficially, when it travels to Drake this weekend. Here’s what to watch for.

Coaching connections

Earlier this season, the Hawkeyes hosted St. Ambrose, where head coach Lisa Bluder began her coaching career in 1984. This weekend, Bluder will travel to Drake, where she spent 10 years and earned her coaching gig at Iowa with a 187-106 overall record.

Bluder is now 15 years removed from her tenure with the Bulldogs, but she can’t deny this game means a little something extra to her and her assistant coaches as well.

“Anytime you spend a decade at some place, you know, we opened up the Knapp Center, I coached Jan Jensen, and her jersey is hanging there as a reminder that she is one of only two women to have their jersey retired at Drake, and Jenni [Fitzgerald] and Jan both played there,” Bluder said. “It means a lot.”

With Jensen, Iowa’s associate head coach, and assistant coach Fitzgerald, the Iowa staff is rich in Drake connections. Considering that Ally Disterhoft’s and Claire Till’s mothers both played for Drake as well, the Hawkeyes have several motivations for bragging rights.

Iowa in the zone

Bluder noted in her press conference on Wednesday that Drake head coach and former Hawkeye Jennie Baranczyk has played zone defense with increased frequency this season. It will be interesting to see if that philosophy remains in the matchup with the Hawkeyes, but if so, that would not appear to be the best strategy to slow the Iowa offense.

The most basic way to defeat a zone defense is to spread it out, and that is done by having strong shooting capabilities from the outside, which causes the defenders to extend. If Drake is going to face any team this season that has the requisite shooters, it’s Iowa.

As a team, the Hawkeyes are eighth in the country with a 40-percent clip from beyond the arc, and Melissa Dixon shoots 43 percent and will demand attention from the Drake’s perimeter defenders.

Kali Peschel had a breakout shooting performance against Iowa State, and if she proves to be another outside weapon with any sort of consistency, the Bulldogs could be in for trouble this weekend.

“I hope so,” Peschel said. “That’s the game plan, but I think as long as we come out and do the fundamentals from an individual and team standpoint, we’ll be able to shoot just as well as we did last game.”

Battle on the boards

Mark it on your calendar, ladies and gents: the Hawkeyes project to have a rebounding advantage in their matchup this weekend.

Iowa has struggled with rebounding at times this season, though it hasn’t been as devastating as some feared it could be. That doesn’t look like it will be a problem this weekend, however, because the Bulldogs allow more rebounds than they collect themselves.

Drake has only two players averaging more than 5 rebounds, and only one with more than 6. Even then, Becca Jones averaging 6.7 per game is a freshman, and only 6-2; 6-4 Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle should find little resistance in dominating the boards.

“We’ve been working on our rebounding, our defense, and our physicality,” Doolittle said. “But they’ll always play their best when they play us, so we have to keep that in mind and get after it.”

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


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