The season starts for the Iowa women’s basketball team today against the school where it all started for the Hawkeyes’ leader.
Lisa Bluder will face the school where her coaching career began when Iowa hosts NAIA St. Ambrose (2-0) in a 3 p.m. exhibition contest at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa has faced the Bees three times, most recently in 1979 but never under Bluder, who began her coaching career at St. Ambrose in 1984.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for St. Ambrose, I wouldn’t. So I owe them so much,” Bluder said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start. We had a new facility, we offered scholarships, they had a good program in place and it was just the family of St. Ambrose that was so special.”
Bluder spent six seasons at the Davenport-based NAIA school, posting a 169-36 record.
St. Ambrose qualified for four straight national tournaments from 1987 to 1990 under Bluder and reached back-to-back Final Fours in her final two seasons before becoming the coach at Drake.
The Bees went 41-3 in Bluder’s final year at St. Ambrose in 1989-1990, falling in the national semifinals.
Today will be the first time Bluder has coached against the school that offered her the first job she had in coaching more than 30 years ago.
“It was such a great place for a starting job,” Bluder said. “I feel like I’ve been so blessed to coach the places I’ve been. I’ve only been in three places, which is amazing — all in Iowa, which is amazing, and all really supportive places.”
Bluder’s current team is coming off its best season under the veteran coach.
Iowa returns four starters and 10 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 27-9 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The 27 wins tied for the second most in program history and were the most for any Bluder-coached team at Iowa.
Iowa opens the season ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press poll and was picked third in the preseason coaches poll.
“I’d say it’s the most preseason hype that we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Bluder said.
Today’s game also will serve as a homecoming for St. Ambrose junior Griffin Reed, who prepped at West High.
Reach Ryan Murken at 339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ST. AMBROSE (2-0) AT NO. 19 IOWA (0-0)
• Where: Carver Hawkeye Arena.
• When: 3 p.m. today.
• Radio: KXIC 800-AM.
• Stat leaders: Iowa — Bethany Doolittle 14.2 ppg; Samantha Logic 6.6 rpg; Samantha Logic 7.5 apg; St. Ambrose — Devan Griffin 24 ppg; Katie Jensen 12 rpg; Brette Logic 5 apg.
• About the Hawkeyes: Iowa set a school record and led the Big Ten in scoring last season at 78.2 points per game and scored the second-most points in a season in Big Ten history with 2,814. The Hawkeyes return 84 percent of that scoring production this season, including four players in Bethany Doolittle (14.2), Samantha Logic (13.3), Ally Disterhoft (13.2) and Melissa Dixon (13.1) that averaged double figures.
• About the Bees: St. Ambrose opens the season ranked No. 20 in the NAIA preseason top-25 coaches poll and was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Midwest Collegiate Conference by league coaches. The Bees are coming off a 26-6 season where they qualified for the NAIA national tournament and opened the season with wins over Judson College and Trinity International University. St. Ambrose is led by returning first-team all-conference selection Devan Griffin, a 6-0 junior forward. Griffin averaged 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last year.
• What to watch: Iowa fans know all about senior point guard Samantha Logic. Today, Iowa fans will get to see another Logic as Samantha matches up with her younger sister, Brette, a sophomore guard for the Bees.