Dec. 18, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Two teams that - on the surface - appear to be going different directions will collide in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday when the University of Iowa women's basketball team entertains intrastate rival Drake at 1 p.m. in a game that will be televised live by the Big Ten Network.
Coach Lisa Bluder's squad will carry a 5-5 record into its 42nd meeting with the Bulldogs. Iowa has lost its last three games including a 54-51heartbreaker to Michigan in Carver on Dec. 6. Amy Stephens' Drake squad is j6-2 and riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak, the last victory coming at the expense of North Dakota by a 70-58 count in the Knapp Center.
And, since we're talking streaks, Bluder's Bunch will also be looking to make it eight in a row against her former employer. The Hawkeyes' thumped Drake a year ago in Des Moines, 71-53, but this is not a "typical" Drake team, Bluder suggested Friday when she visited with the media.
"They are always a very, very good defensive team. We have come to expect that from Coach Stephens' teams," said Bluder. "This year, however, they're shooting the ball very well, particularly from three-point range, so they're also scoring more."
If the game was determined exclusively by the stat sheet, Sunday's belongs to the Bulldogs. Statistically, they are scoring more than the Hawkeyes, they are playing better defense, they are shooting better, and they are taking better care of the ball.
But the game isn't determined by the numbers of a sheet of paper, it's determine on the floor and that Hawkeyes are possibly going to get a boost Sunday with the talented junior Kachine Alexander to the bench.
"We're actually thinking we might have 10 players dressed for Sunday. Imagine that," smiled Bluder.
With respect to Alexander - arguably the Hawkeyes' top player who has been sidelined since mid-November with a stress fracture in her right leg - Bluder said the junior guard will not be a starter but, she hopes, will see about 15 minutes or so of game action.
"We've been bringing her along very slowly, very deliberately. Wednesday, she was at about 75 percent. Today, I'd say she was near 80. She also went up and down the floor at pretty much full speed for close to three minutes," Iowa's head coach said.
EASY ACCESS: Fans have three ways to attend Sunday's game for free. Those who have purchase a FedEx Orange Bowl patch get one free ticket with the purchase of one ticket. Fans who present a ticket stub from the Iowa-Drake men's game on Saturday will also be admitted free. And, lastly, free tickets are available at the customer service counter at the four Hy-Vee locations in Iowa City and Coralville.
"She raises the level of terms of intensity, so having her available will certainly help us in that area. But we'll want to be careful. She can't modify how she plays. She plays at one speed."
A healthy Kachine Alexander is a walking double-double. In the three games she's played thus far in 2009-10, Alexander scored 19, 21 and 23. She also was dominant on the board, collecting 18, 12 and 17 rebounds.
It's easy to see what Bluder and the Hawkeye are eager to have their leader back on the playing floor. They also know it's a process.
"Getting her back in `game shape' will take some time. But, of course, having her back is a very, very good thing," said Bluder.
Bluder said her team has had a good week of practice while tackling finals. She said her team focused on the basics, the fundamentals.
"The correct way to block out... The correct way to set a screen... And, of course, the importance of taking care of the basketball," she said.
Turnovers have been an Achilles heel of the squad. Iowa has been charged with an average of 17 a game. In the last three games, they've had 17, 14 and 19.
Iowa entertains South Dakota State on Tuesday in Carver. That game tips at 7 p.m. The Hawkeyes will then break for the Christmas holiday before travelling to Penn State for a Dec. 28 date with the Nittany Lions.
Bluder's Bunch will ring in 2010 with a home game against Wisconsin at 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve.