Nov. 13, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It may be early in the season, but the University of Iowa women's basketball team is already getting a taste of March. While many teams desire a less demanding start to the season, the Hawkeyes will play their third game in the past five days when they host the Preseason WNIT semifinals on Wednesday.
The Hawkeyes (2-0) will meet Middle Tennessee State (2-0) inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a ticket to the Preseason WNIT championship on the line. Head coach Lisa Bluder and the Hawkeyes are expecting a tournament-quality atmosphere, and a tournament-ready opponent. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
"Not very often do you get to be in a tournament atmosphere to start your season," said Bluder, who spoke to members of the media at Tuesday's press conference. "I can feel just the excitement of our players being able to play in a tournament of this quality. You have four teams remaining here that are all very, very good teams."
Both the Hawkeyes and Blue Raiders have made their way to the semifinals with relative ease. Both teams have a winning margin well over +20, and have looked threatening on both sides of the court through two contests.
The winner of the contest will face either Georgetown or North Carolina on Sunday at 3 p.m. (CT) for the championship.
"We're really excited to make it this far," said sophomore guard Samantha Logic. "Our goal was to make it to the championship game, so we have a chance to meet our goal tomorrow."
To people unfamiliar with the program, Middle Tennessee State may sound like a more typical easy nonconference opponent. Bluder said it will be anything but that, and was adamant that the Blue Raiders won't be sneaking up on the Hawkeyes.
Middle Tennessee State returns all five starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's team that compiled a 26-7 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season. Middle Tennessee State is led by forwards Ebony Rowe and Icelyn Elie, who are averaging over 20 points per game.
"We have definitely shown them highlight films, so they've seen that the last two days," said Bluder on preparing her squad for the Blue Raiders. "They've seen their statistics. We've told them that they were an NCAA-qualifying team the last several years, and yeah, sometimes people, and especially fans, get deceived by a name. But don't be deceived because this is a team that is very, very good."
The Hawkeyes advanced to the semifinals with a 74-64 victory against Illinois State. Iowa sank 32-of-41 free throws and used a 24-point outing from Morgan Johnson and a double-double from Theairra Taylor to get past a pesky opponent.
Bluder will need the same type of performances from Johnson, Taylor and the rest of her squad against a top caliber opponent in Middle Tennessee. Bluder is also hoping that a strong home crowd can help boost the Hawkeyes to the Preseason WNIT championship game.
"We get to play a top team this early in the year," Bluder said. "Usually, you don't get to do that until the Big Ten season, playing a top-25 team on your home court. We want to take full advantage of being able to host a team like this."