March 5, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It has been a season for the history books, and the University of Iowa women's basketball team can add one more never-before-seen feat this weekend at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Junior Bethany Doolittle set the single-season blocked shots record Feb. 6, head coach Lisa Bluder became the winningest coach in UI basketball history Feb. 10, junior Samantha Logic handed out more assists in a career than any other Hawkeye on March 2. On March 9, it is possible the Hawkeyes could become the first women's basketball team to win four straight games and claim the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship.
But hold on with the big-picture outlook, Bluder says. Ditch the four games-in-four days mentality. Instead, break it down into 40-minute segments one day at a time.
"It's hard to play four games in four days," Bluder said. "It is hard to mentally go through four scouts and get ready for each of our opponents and then not have a full practice to prepare for their schemes. You don't look at it that we're going to go into it playing four games, you see one game one day at a time and that's where your focus has to be. You have to break it down into four individual games versus four games all in a row because it can be overwhelming."
Welcome to the postseason where every team is in sudden death mode with hypothetical 0-0 records. That includes the No. 23 Hawkeyes (23-7) and their Thursday first-round foe Illinois (9-20). The teams played twice in the regular season, with Iowa winning 69-55 at home and 81-56 on the road three days ago.
"Illinois has a good team and it's hard playing a team in that close succession," said Doolittle, who on Monday was named to the all-conference second team and all-defensive team. "We won't have trouble getting up for that game because we know they are coming out with all they have."
The Hawkeyes made an undefeated three-game run through the 2001 Big Ten Tournament, defeating Indiana, Illinois, and top-seeded Purdue in the finals. Three Big Ten teams have played four games in four days, but none were victorious in the championship (Penn State in 1998, Illinois in 2008, Nebraska in 2012).
Iowa is the fifth seed in this year's tournament and on three occasions the fifth seed has won the title -- Purdue in 1998, Indiana in 2002, Ohio State in 2011.
"It's obviously a whole new season, nothing else matters now," said Logic, a first-team All-Big Ten selection. "Your record in conference doesn't matter anymore and your record preconference doesn't matter. It's exciting that everyone is starting fresh, knowing that we're going to get everyone's best shot now and we're going to give everyone ours."
It was mentioned more than once Tuesday at a media gathering in Carver-Hawkeye Arena that UI players are putting extra oomph into their play to send lone senior Theairra Taylor off the court carrying a trophy. Taylor is incorporating that extra energy into her play as well. In the last 10 games she is averaging 15.1 points per game with two 20-point performances.
"I'm just playing my game," Taylor said. "It kind of hit me that time is running out."
Iowa is the only Big Ten team, and one of 13 teams in the country, to appear in the last six NCAA Tournaments. Bluder and the Hawkeyes know something about postseason success.
"We're planning to cut down a net now, we're playing for a ring, we're playing for an automatic (NCAA) tournament selection," Bluder said. "There is a lot to get excited about this week."