Bluder works wonders


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Games such as Monday night’s 78-72 win over Nebraska are times when a team such as Iowa should be thankful to have a veteran head coach calling the shots.

With her team overwhelmed early, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder swapped in a pair of often under-appreciated role players in Claire Till and Christina Buttenham hoping to infuse a little snarl and defensive acumen into the Iowa lineup.

It worked perfectly.

Bluder’s manipulation of her bench changed the pace of the game and allowed her starters enough time to regroup before turning in a huge second half for Iowa.

And for all the big performances from the Hawks (there were quite a few), Bluder remained the game’s biggest star.  

“We beat a very good team, and that’s what makes this win feel so much better,” she said. “We haven’t beaten them [since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011], so it definitely makes it pretty special.”

The usual benefactor of momentum-shifting first-half scoring runs, Iowa was on the opposite end of a 10-1 tear by the Huskers to start things off.

Just four minutes in, Bluder’s Bunch was in an 8-0 hole, fighting to claw back into a game that was destined to be hard-fought from the start.

Driving to the basket with relative ease, the Nebraska offense looked wildly unfazed by a normally intimidating and usually daunting Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

As for the Hawks, a normally lethal frontcourt went ice cold from the field, missing its first six shots from the floor.

With the Hawks looking for something, anything, to spark the team, Bluder turned to a pair of juniors in Kali Peschel and Till to stem the advance of the ever increasing Nebraska tide. 

In a game against the Big Ten’s best defense, Bluder swapped out speed and skill in favor of size and resistance.

It ended up being the right move.  With the Black and Gold up against it early and center Bethany Doolittle in foul trouble, Till took control of her spot and held her own all up until the nail-biting finale.

“We need Claire and Chase [Coley] step up because of the fouls, and they did,” Bluder said. “Defensively, she did a nice job, and those were important minutes for us.  They came through.”

Till finished with 13 minutes, nearly double her season average, and while her name is accompanied by mostly zeros on the box score, her contributions did not go unnoticed by her teammates.

“I think our defense really helped get us back in this one,” senior guard Sam Logic said. “Not in the first eight minutes even, but to have the mental capacity to get stops and rebounds after getting down early was big.”

Bluder left her mark on this game, make no mistake.

And whether it was her first adjustment or the last perfectly drawn hook-and-ladder, her steady hand guided the Hawks through rough waters and toward perhaps their biggest win so far.

Bluder’s need to tighten up defensively carried over to her team in the second half.

The Hawks took it from there.

“We came in at half and knew our shots weren’t falling,” sophomore Ally Disterhoft said. “We knew we couldn’t control that, but what we could control was our rebounding and our defensive effort.”

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

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