Hawkeyes & Panthers Play Challenging Nonconference Slate
Dec. 1, 2012
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.
Bluder and the Hawkeyes sit at 5-3 overall, while the Northern Iowa sits at 3-3. The combined 8-6 mark might not seem like an eye-popping figure, but a closer look at each schedule shows early season challenges on both sides.
Four of Iowa's first eight opponents are currently ranked or receiving votes in the Associated Press top 25. The Hawkeyes knocked off West Virginia (25th) and Middle Tennessee (receiving votes). North Carolina (22nd) and Florida State (receiving votes) are responsible for two of Iowa's three losses.
Northern Iowa hosted mid-major power Wisconsin-Green Bay to open the season, losing by a single point. The Panthers were also defeated by Pac-12 opponent Arizona State and an SEC foe in Florida. Northern Iowa is coming off a solid 76-72 win against North Carolina State.
"Both of our teams have played very difficult schedules," Bluder said. "When you look around the country, there are a lot of teams that have 5-1 records or are undefeated, but they haven't played anybody. We've played four teams right around the top 30. That's a pretty ambitious nonconference schedule. I pride myself in trying to play a tough nonconference schedule."
Part of that tough nonconference schedule is facing three intrastate rivals before Big Ten Conference play begins. Northern Iowa has made three-straight postseason appearances and advanced to the Women's Basketball Invitational championship game a year ago.
Bluder sees a lot of her own style in the Panthers, which made a quick turnaround after Wednesday's tough ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Florida State a little easier.
"We are two teams that play very similar styles, and I'm thankful for that," Bluder said. "We only had one day to prepare for UNI, so we kind of know what to expect."
Bluder also expects Northern Iowa's star guard, Jacqui Kalin, to be a handful. Kalin's career has had its ups-and-downs, with two season-ending injuries. She won a petition for a sixth year after only playing five games in 2008-09 and missing the entire 2011-12 season. Kalin was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in 2011 and Freshman of the Year in 2008.
Kalin has picked up where she left off and leads the team with a 19 point average this season. The Sioux City, Iowa, native is coming off a 28-point performance against North Carolina State. She finished 4-for-8 from 3-point distance and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
Bluder admires Kalin, both on and off the court.
"I have a lot of respect for Jacqui Kalin as a person," Bluder said. "She is a tremendous player, but she is also a quality human being. She has worked hard on getting her degree and has done some job shadowing out on the road. She is a mature kid that is playing very well. I'm happy for her that she got this sixth year, and it's been a blessing for UNI."
Iowa and UNI tip off at approximately 2:30 p.m. (CT) today inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Fans in Iowa not able to attend the game can catch it live on Mediacom (MC22), with veteran broadcaster Rob Brooks and Shelley Till handling the call.