By John Bohnenkamp
Iowa’s 95-86 win at Nebraska on Sunday felt like the beginning of the season, when the Hawkeyes won their first four games before a series of disruptions threw off their rhythm.
Coach Lisa Bluder hopes that feeling can continue.
“That’s a great sign and I hope that’s true,” Bluder said on Wednesday. “But you know, it’s one game and so you want to have consistency. I think if we can put it together in back-to-back games that will make us feel a whole lot better but at the same time, yes, it felt like Iowa basketball again.”
The Hawkeyes (8-4 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) were in the top 10 in the national rankings when they had three games canceled at the end of November because of COVID-19 issues within the program. They have gone 4-4 since returning, a stretch that also included games against Penn State and Illinois postponed because of COVID-19 outbreaks within those programs, and fell out of the Associated Press and coaches polls this week.
Iowa lost at home to Northwestern last Thursday, but the win over the Huskers gave the Hawkeyes a better feeling.
“Yeah, I mean, I think the Nebraska game was big for us,” center Monika Czinano said. “Kind of an energy booster getting our feet under us again, and like Coach Bluder said, playing Iowa basketball. So I think what’s really nice about those games is you get to set an example for everybody. Even people who don’t play, they get to see it, they get to understand it and that way we can demand it from other games.”
The Hawkeyes shot 61.7% from the field and had 22 assists on 37 field goals.
“You can tell that by the way we played as far as assists and as far as points and way we shot the ball, but it also felt like the energy felt different,” Bluder said. “You just feel and it felt like Iowa basketball again. So that is going down the right path and we just have to put that together over and over and over again.”
The Hawkeyes play at Purdue (11-4, 2-2) on Thursday before returning home for a Sunday game against Nebraska (13-2, 2-2). Now it feels like a normal Big Ten season.
“Obviously we play Nebraska again pretty soon, but we’re making sure that we’re giving Purdue our full attention right now,” Czinano said. “And just kind of moving from game to game is super important. It’s easy to look at the whole season and kind of get overwhelmed or feel like there’s so many games and you need to focus on the one that’s three games out, when in reality that’s not going to prepare you best to win the next one.”
Purdue, under new coach Katie Gearlds, is on a five-game winning streak. And playing the Huskers again a week later, especially after what Bluder described as “snippy” emotions between the two teams, makes this a difficult week.
Bluder wasn’t about to call the win over the Huskers one that could change the direction of the season.
“I absolutely hope so,” she said. “I mean, you know, that’s the goal. I hope that’s true. And so I you know, again, I mean, that could happen. I don’t know.”
Photo: Iowa’s Caitlin Clark helps teammate Gabbie Marshall during last Thursday’s game against Northwestern. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)