Lisa Bluder has been coaching long enough to experience almost every scheduling scenario imaginable.
Or so she thought.
That was before the five-game, 12-day stretch that Iowa currently finds itself in the midst of.
Iowa (12-4, 2-2 Big Ten) will play its third game in a seven-day span on Wednesday when it travels to Wisconsin.
“In 16 years I’ve been in the Big Ten, I’ve never been in a stretch where we have five games in 12 days,” Bluder said following Sunday’s loss to eighth-ranked Maryland. “It’s unbelievable.”
What would have been already been a tight schedule to open Big Ten play got significantly tighter when a pair of games were moved for television purposes.
Iowa’s game against Rutgers was moved from Jan. 3 to Jan. 4 to appear on the Big Ten Network, and the Hawkeyes' game at Michigan State was moved up a day from Jan. 17 to Jan. 16.
Those two adjustments compacted five games into as tight a window as Bluder can ever recall seeing.
Making the stretch more challenging for Iowa is that three of those five are road games, and two came against teams currently ranked in the top 25.
“Five games in 12 days is awful and three of them are on the road so we are dealing with traveling as well,” Bluder said. “That’s a lot, it’s really a lot and the kids just need that mental break sometimes and they aren’t going to get it until this stretch is over.”
Iowa opened the stretch by defeating Rutgers before dropping back-to-back games to Michigan and Maryland.
Both losses stung for different reasons.
Iowa let a 17-point lead slip away in the loss at Michigan and never led in a 20-point loss to Maryland on Sunday that snapped a 25-game home winning streak for the Hawkeyes.
Junior Ally Disterhoft isn’t worried about a two-game losing skid.
“We’ll be fine,” Disterhoft said on Monday. “Michigan was a tough loss, one that we beat ourselves we feel and Maryland is a good team. They’re not 20 points better than us on our home court but they are a good team, they are a Final Four team. The past two games are just tough, you are going to have some of that in the Big Ten, you are going to have to realize that and it’s how you bounce back.”
Last season Iowa played three games in six days in February, going 2-1 in that stretch that included two road games.
The Hawkeyes had a veteran team a year ago with a trio of multi-year senior starters.
This season, a young team that features five underclassmen in its regular eight-player rotation has added another challenge to the condensed stretch of schedule.
“We aren’t a veteran team. A veteran team we could take maybe one day to prepare for a team, but we aren’t to the point where we can do that yet because we have so much to learn,” Bluder said. “Our learning curve is bigger, it takes us a lot longer to learn things, but that’s OK, it’s just that you don’t like to be in this type of scenario with those circumstances.”
Iowa hopes to get back on the winning track against Wisconsin before wrapping up the stretch at No. 18 Michigan State on Saturday.
“We’re in a tough stretch but we cannot have a hangover that affects us on Wednesday night,” Bluder said. “We’ve got to bounce back.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.