Feb. 15, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Lisa Bluder calls them "voilà moments," and she hopes to see plenty of them Thursday when the University of Iowa women's basketball team plays Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Bluder, head coach of a Hawkeye team that has won five games in a row, says a voilà moment is when her student-athletes pass up a questionable field goal attempt and wait for a good, high-percentage shot.
"I want our team to understand what a good shot is. I think they've got this now," Bluder said Wednesday at a gathering with media inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "Understanding we want to work our offense for good shots and that our percentages go up when we're taking good shots. So don't force things. Wait for the good shots. We call them the voilà moments."
Iowa and Michigan tip off at 7 p.m. (CT) Thursday from Crisler Arena. The game will be televised live by Big Ten Network with Dan Kelly, Lisa Stone and Megan Bower calling the action.
During the five-game winning streak that includes decisions against Purdue, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan State, the Hawkeyes have shot 45 percent from the field (140-of-311). That is more than three percentage points higher than the team's season average, which is fourth-best in the Big Ten Conference.
Boosting the shooting percentage totals in the last outing -- a 74-57 rout of Michigan State on Sunday -- were Bethany Doolittle (3-of-4), Theairra Taylor (3-of-4), Samantha Logic (6-of-10) and Morgan Johnson (7-of-14). On the season, Johnson is making nearly 55 percent of her field goals.
For the second game in a row, the 6-foot-5 Johnson and the 6-4 Doolittle will enjoy a height advantage in the post. The center for Michigan is 6-1 Rachel Sheffer, who not only averages 13.3 points per game, but has attempted 57 3-point field goals.
"I want our team to understand what a good shot is. I think they've got this now. Understanding we want to work our offense for good shots and that our percentages go up when we're taking good shots. So don't force things. Wait for the good shots. We call them the voilà moments."
UI head women's basketball coach
"Something that concerns me about this game is that their post (Sheffer) is their leading scorer," Bluder said. "She's not truly a back-to-the-basket post. In fact, she shoots 3s at a very good rate; one of the better 3 point shooters on their team. She can drive from outside and it could create some defensive problems for Morgan and Bethany."
You can trust that the Hawkeyes will see the height advantage in the post as one of those voilà opportunities.
"Now, remember, it's a defensive problem for us, but it's also a defensive problem for them," Bluder said. "At 6-5 going against their 6-1 post, we have an advantage inside, and we plan to try to use that as well."
Johnson, who averages 15 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game, feels up to the test.
"It's going to be a new challenge, but I'm going to embrace it," Johnson said. "I need to use my height to my advantage and try to counter her speed with my size. I'm going to need to focus on closing out, because she is a very good 3-point shooter. I've had to play defense on the perimeter before, so I'll draw on those experiences to help me against Michigan."
In three previous head-to-head meetings against Sheffer, Johnson has totaled 27 points, 20 rebounds and six blocks; the Wolverine has scored two points with three rebounds.
But Johnson is 0-3 lifetime against Michigan. And this pack of Wolverines (18-7, 7-5) is second in the league in scoring defense, allowing 57.7 points per game.
"We'll attack their defense the same way we always do. We don't change things up," Bluder said. "We stick to our game plan: we want to push when it's there, when it's not there, we run our offense, and try to work the ball for high percentage shots. As long as we take care of the ball and don't have turnovers, we will get good shots within our offense -- if we have patience and can control the ball."
In their most-recent outing Feb. 9, the Wolverines knocked off Nebraska, 63-52, in Lincoln. On Jan. 7, Michigan defeated defending conference tournament champion Ohio State, 73-62.
"Right now Iowa's field goal percentage defense is the best in the league," Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. "They mix their defenses up pretty well to keep you off guard. They're well-groomed right now; so are we. We're in the same boat they're in -- we feel we have good chances against anyone they play."
One of the best parts of the current win streak for the Hawkeyes is that two of those victories -- Wisconsin and Indiana -- came on the road. That will be key since the Wolverines are 9-2 at home this season.
"Going on the road is never easy, but also knowing that we've won two straight road games definitely puts us in a better mind frame going to play at Michigan," Bluder said.
And hopefully Crisler Arena provides a setting for more voilà moments.