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Hawkeyes taking aim at nation's leading scorer

BY KYLE MANN | FEBRUARY 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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Big Ten second-place Iowa women’s basketball is scheduled to host Ohio State tonight with an opportunity to distance itself from the rest of the pack in the Big Ten.

Iowa (17-4, 8-2 Big Ten) all but bid farewell to a first-place finish with a loss to Maryland over this past weekend, but it is solidly in second place with a one-game advantage over Nebraska, Rutgers, and the visiting Buckeyes, which stand at 7-3 in the conference.

A win tonight would be the ideal start to the home stretch of the regular season.

“This game kind of separates you a little bit more from at least one person,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “And we play them twice, so we really need to get the home-court victory.”

It won’t come easily, however; the Buckeyes boast the second-highest scoring offense in the Big Ten, led by the most electric scoring duo in the NCAA. Freshman phenom guard Kelsey Mitchell is leading the nation at 26 points per game.

“There are two theories on that: You can worry about her, or you can worry about stopping everybody else and see if one person can stop you,” Bluder said. “I’m kind of in the middle of both those theories. I want to concentrate on her but stop the rest.”

That’s where things will get dicey, and she knows it.

“With this team,” she said. “It’s really focusing on two players.”

Junior guard Ameryst Alston comes in at 20.6 points per game, which gives the Buckeyes the only pair of teammates scoring more than 20 points in the country.

“We know Ohio State is a really great team. They have two really good guards,” Hawkeye Melissa Dixon said. “They’re the majority of their team’s scoring, so it’s important to know where they are at all times and not let them go off.”

If the Hawkeyes can adequately check those guards, Dixon and the offense appear to have as favorable of a matchup as they could hope for. The Buckeyes come to Iowa City surrendering the most points in the conference, and they reside in the bottom four in 3-point defense.

The Iowa offense, on the other hand, has the third-highest scoring offense and the best 3-point shooting team in the conference.

The matchup doesn’t project to be a struggle offensively; whether Iowa can avoid its first losing streak of the season will hinge on the defense’s ability to play better than it has.

The Hawkeyes don’t sport much better numbers than the Buckeyes, if either team has any advantage at all. Iowa is 13th to Ohio State’s 14th scoring defense and is significantly below Ohio State in field-goal percentage defense.

Bluder said the team would have something dialed up to put pressure on Mitchell and Alston, but she didn’treveal any secrets.

“Mitchell and Alston are a big part of their offensive game,” center Bethany Doolittle said. “It’s just going to be our focus to limit their touches and limit their scoring.”

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


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