Ladies First: Iowa Women Tip Off Season Friday

Head Coach Lisa Bluder and her Hawkeyes open the season this weekend by playing host to the Hawkeye Challenge. "We bring a lot of energy to the floor," Bluder said. "We're scoring well. We're passing the ball well, assist-to-basket ratio, but turning the ball over too many times. We need to really come to grips with that or that can be just a thorn in our side all year long." Read more from the coach's press conference.

COACH BLUDER OPENING STATEMENT

We are ready for out tournament this weekend. I think the players were ready to play about three weeks ago. Coaches are never ready for this to open up.

Our first game, we feature Butler University, a team that was 6-23 last year. They return all starters. This is a team that plays a lot of people. They rotate people in and out. They're very deep. They're very balanced. They have a new head coach in there this year. She's brought a new energy to the team. Their point guard was a preseason all-conference selection. Her name is Nancy Bowden. She really resembles Crystal Smith in the fact that she's just very quick, a great defensive player. She is somebody that we will have to key on.

On the other side, we have Gonzaga. Gonzaga returns four starters. They were second in their conference last year. The thing that I remember about Gonzaga is that we barely beat them in the Alaska Shootout Championship just a few years back. They would never go away. We had more height. We probably had more speed. But they were very fundamentally sound, and they just kept coming at us. We could just never put them away.

Houston is a very athletic team. They return four starters. They will pose a lot of problems for us. For one, they return Chandi Jones, who was the nation's leading scorer at (27.5) points a game last year. They have a lot of height - 6-5 center; 6-4 power forward. Those are going to give us some problems that we didn't see when we played in our exhibition games.

I'm happy with the way that our two exhibition games turned out. It gave us some things to work on. It refocused our players to show them the things that they need to work on. But we're ready to go. And we need to be because we play these two home games and then we're on the road for five straight games. That is obviously going to be a tough stretch. We don't return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena until we Dec. 12 when we play Kansas State, a team ranked in teh Top 10 in the country right now. We hope we get a good turnout for this weekend. We hope that we can get a lot accomplished this weekend.

Health-wise, everybody is good. Jennie Lillis took it on the chin, literally, this weekend. We were in a scrimmage and she got clipped and fell flat on Carver-Hawkeye Arena floor on her chin and took 10 stitches to the chin. We said, "Don't worry. Only short guys can see it." I think we're OK with that. Other than that, everybody is good, except for Deb Remmerde.

Q&A WITH COACH BLUDER

How is Remmerde progressing and are we still looking at probably the Iowa State game (Dec. 3) for her return?

We're optimistic about that, but there's no certainty in this injury. With stress fractures, everybody heals a little bit differently. When we caught it was early, and that's good. That should make her recovery quicker. It's one of those things where you can't bring her back until she's pain free. That's a hard thing to predict. We're still optimistic. That's the goal, but it's not definite, by any means.

We is she able to do at this point? Can she do anything?

No. Well, she's in the swimming pool because it's non-weight bearing exercise. We have her in the swimming pool to keep her conditioning. Other than that, she basically watched from the sidelines. She does a lot of ball handling sitting on the sidelines in a chair. I never knew there were so many ball handling drills that you could do sitting down. But she has emulated every one of them. She's going to be able to slowly start shooting like 15 minutes a day.

Has Crystal Smith played herself into a larger role with her defense?

She has. That's what she enjoys most, playing defense. But we want her to be a well-rounded player. We want her to look for her shot more. She has a good shot. She's a very good 3-point shooter. The more that she gets confidence in that, the more that it happens on the floor. But even if she's not shooting, she brings a presence to the floor. She changes the way that we play defense. That's a good thing. Crystal adds a lot to our team. She's our first perimeter sub right now.

What did you learn about this team through those two exhibitions?

I like the way that this team plays. We were playing with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of heart. We bring a lot of energy to the floor. We're scoring well. We're passing the ball well, assist-to-basket ratio, but turning the ball over too many times. We need to really come to grips with that or that can be just a thorn in our side all year long. We've really tried to focus on that in practice, valuing the ball. There were some good and bad things on the defensive end. Our on-ball defense has got some work to do. We've really tried to concentrate on that this week.

How do you feel about Lindsay Richards being back so far and how do you feel about her leadership abilities?

I'd like to see Lindsay get a little more vocal. It's there. The leadership qualities are there. She's a person that I have confidence in. She knows the game well and understands it well. She's going to continue to grow every game and just get better and better and better. We're not even close to seeing the Lindsay Richards that we're going to see at the end of the year. It's going to take some time for her to grow into a comfort level at that position. I'm just thriled to have her back on the floor.

How much more confident is Cavey this year?

She's increased her confidence, but it's something that we always have to work on. A lot of female athletes have that trouble though. They lose their confidence quickly. Jamie is one of those players. We have to keep reminding her of how good that she can be. I always think about when we sat in her home during the home visit how she said "Well, I don't know if I'm really good enough to play in the Big Ten." Now, she owns the Carver-Hawkeye Arena record for field goal percentage for men or women of all time. So, here's a player that's questioning whether she's good enough to play in the Big Ten and own's the Carver-Hawkeye Arena record. That shows how far that she has come.

Do you think she can do it on a game by game basis?

I think she can. Only time will tell whether she can play that way consistently. She certainly ended the year last year in the last 10 games in that fashion. And she's begun the year this way. So, that gives me a lot of confidence that it can continue. We are going to see some up and down games, but hopefully fewer anad fewer of those down games. She's proven in the last 12 games that she's played in an Iowa uniform that she's ready.

You talked a lot last year about needing a third person to step up (in scoring). Have you found that?

We have a number of people that can step up. That's one of the things that I like about this team as well. We're deeper than we have been in the past. We've played 10 players and felt very comfortable with those 10 players. We want to be more balanced. Jamie Cavey, Lindsay Richards all have the potential to really add to that. Jenna Armstrong can come in, Becca McCann can come in and have their nights, too. We do need to get that four or five players in consistent double figures.

How is Johanna doing?

Oh. She's somebody that I just totally spaced out right there. Excuse me. She is somebody that definitely should also add to that mix. Johanna struggled in the last exhibition game. But Tiffany Reedy came in and did some nice things for us. I love that depth in our basketball team that we have those people that we can go to on the bench. If somebody is having a little bit of an off night or needs a mental rest, we can give that to them with this team instead of letting them play through that. Playing through those things can be really tough. That can be turnovers waiting to happen. I don't think we have to do that this year. But Jo is practicing well this week. And at this time, she'll be our starter on Friday night.

How much emphasis has defense gotten in practice?

We have been giving considerable attention to that; our on-ball defense and drilling our zone. That's something that we see that was a problem. That's good. That's what exhibition games are for; to show you those things so that you can really stress them and work on them in practice.

Is there a little extra pressure in hosting your own tournament to start the season?

Opening up with games back to back is not ideal. It doesn't give you time to work on things that you didn't do well in your first game. But we really don't have a choice. It's either this weekend or next weekend to play our tournament. Next weekend, we want to travel. It's Thanksgiving. It's a great opportunity for student-athletes to travel without missing school. So, this is what we're going to do. We're going to open up our season with our tournament every year. So, we're going to get used to it.

Should you be ranked?

Not at this time. I don't think that we have earned that respect. Hopefully, with time, that will come.


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