Nov. 6, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There was good news and bad news when University of Iowa head women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder met the media Wednesday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
First, the bad:
"We had some bad news come from the exhibition game with Nicole Smith being out for most of the year," said Bluder, in her 14th year at the helm of the program. "She suffered a meniscus tear during the game. We are looking at 10-14 weeks recovery, which is most of the year. It is a blow to our depth. She is the tallest player on our team, but most importantly, we lost a really great kid."
Smith was poised to take the next step during her sophomore campaign after improvement in the offseason. In the 92-68 exhibition victory Sunday, she registered two points and two rebounds in three minutes before leaving the contest because of injury.
"Nicole worked extremely hard, as hard as anybody, over the summer," said Bluder. "She made a drastic change in her game from last year to this year. Nicole worked hard in the weight room and improved her shot.
"What bothers me the most is seeing a kid who worked so hard in the offseason, not being rewarded for all of the hard work she put in. There was a complete change in her demeanor, her attitude, and her work ethic, and it had paid dividends. Now, she won't get to reap the benefits of that."
Peschel and Disterhoft will stay primarily at forward, while Till will back Bethany Doolittle in the low post.
"We are having Claire Till learn a lot of the 5 position," said Bluder. "Claire is tough as nails. She is not scared to be physical and will not back down from anybody. One of the things that I have always liked about Claire is that she plays with a chip on her shoulder. You need that when you play as an undersized post. She is going to have to rely on that in this position. She will get more minutes at the 5, and it opens up more minutes for Ally (Disterhoft) at the 3 and 4."
The good news: Iowa -- the only Big Ten team to appear in the last six NCAA Tournaments -- opens the 2013-14 campaign this weekend inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the Hawkeye Challenge. The Hawkeyes face UC Riverside on Friday at 6 p.m. (CT), before battling No. 14 Dayton on Sunday at 1.
"We are excited about the games we have coming up and the two opponents we have coming in this weekend," said Bluder. "UC Riverside is athletic and plays a different type of zone than we usually see. They play a 1-2-2 zone and early in the year, it's hard to scout and prepare for people because you aren't really sure what they are going to do. That is something that we will have to be ready for against Riverside."
Following a tough opening-night test, the Hawkeyes welcome a top-15 team to Mediacom Court. "With Dayton, we have just one day to prepare," said Bluder. "We are playing a team that comes in ranked No. 14 in the country. They went 28-3 last year, and have been to the last four NCAA Tournaments.
"This is a team that is very well coached, and they know how to win. We are really challenging ourselves early in our schedule, playing a basketball program as good as Dayton."
Tickets are available by visiting the ticket office at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or online at hawkeyesports.com.