March 2, 2014
By DARREN MILLER
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Lisa Bluder worried of a letdown.
Her No. 25 University of Iowa women's basketball team entered Sunday's game at Illinois on a two-game winning streak, but the Hawkeyes also knew that because of Nebraska's loss at Purdue earlier in the day, there was no chance of securing the No. 4 seed and a bye in the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Bluder reminded her squad that win No. 23 was at stake. So was a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Turns out, she had nothing to worry about.
The Hawkeyes led by 20 points in the first half and extended that to 35 with 9:57 to go during an 81-56 win over Illinois at the State Farm Center. Iowa finishes the regular season at 23-7 overall, 11-5 in the Big Ten, and 6-2 in league road games; the Illini are 9-20, 2-14. It is the second time a Bluder-coached Iowa team won 23 times, the last was during the 2004-05 season (23-10).
"The team did a nice job of coming out and playing well," Bluder said.
"Hopefully we'll go in with a lot of confidence knowing that we swept them during the year," Bluder said.
Iowa also defeated the Illini 69-55 on Feb. 13 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
UI senior Theairra Taylor picked up where she left off after a memorable Senior Night win Thursday against Ohio State. She led the way again Sunday with 17 points, five assists, and five steals. Taylor made 6-of-10 field goals, including 3-of-6 3-point attempts. Taylor and Melissa Dixon both had three 3-point field goals and the Hawkeyes netted 11-of-27 (40.7-percent) from beyond the arc.
But the number of the game belonged to junior point guard Samantha Logic. Logic scored 12 points with seven rebounds, but her five assists put her at 577 for a career, passing Cara Consuegra (1997-2001) as the school's all-time assist leader.
"What is impressive is whose record she took over," Bluder said. "Cara Consuegra was an outstanding point guard; for Sam to surpass her with a year remaining is an amazing statistic."
Iowa shot 56.3 percent from the field (27-of-48) and went to the line 20 times, making 16. Illinois entered the game forcing a league-best 20.6 turnovers a game, but the Illini were on the losing end of a 19-13 turnover count Sunday. Ball security was one of many things that pleased Bluder.
Iowa-Illinois III will take place Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, 25 minutes following the game between the eighth and nine seeds that begins at 11 a.m. (CT).
"Twenty-three (wins) sounds really good, but 24 sounds a lot better," Bluder said.
The Big Ten Tournament will be televised by BTN; the Hawkeyes are 9-0 on that network this season.