Bluder: We focused on what we had, not what we didn’t have.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Makenzie Meyer is getting antsy, as is her head coach. But the Iowa sophomore’s return to the floor will have to wait a bit longer.
Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said Wednesday that Meyer won’t return to action on Saturday against Purdue after suffering a fracture of the fourth metacarpal in her left hand on Dec. 27. The initial prognosis was that Meyer would be re-evaluated in two weeks —which was Wednesday — but her absence will extend a little further following a Tuesday x-ray.
“I think Mack is starting to get antsy — that’s the way I guess I could describe it,” Bluder said. “We were all kind of setting ourselves up for two weeks, and now, OK, here it is a little bit longer. This is the first time she’s had a significant injury, so it’s hard for athletes because this is their identity. They want to be on the floor. They’ve worked hard for this. and I’m getting antsy with it too.
“But she will be back. That’s the good news.”
Bluder said Meyer will have another x-ray next week, one the Hawkeyes hope will deliver promising news. Iowa has held it together in the immediate — going 3-1 since Meyer’s injury — but both are hoping a return is slated for sooner rather than later.
“I think Mack has handled it well on the outside,” Bluder said. “I’m sure on the inside, there’s a lot of turmoil going on right now. I think at first, it’s almost disbelief that this injury happened to you — and it’s easy to start feeling sorry for yourself, especially as it keeps lingering and lingering.
“‘The team is doing well without me — how does that make me feel? I want the team to do well, but I also want to be a part of it.’ So all of those things can start creeping into an athlete’s mind.”
Kathleen Doyle added that Meyer is “raring to go,” even more so given that it’s a hand injury and not one that affecting her legs or ability to run and stay conditioned. She’s managed to stay engaged on the bench, offering encouragement and support whenever possible.
“Makenzie knows she’s got to heal up to make us a better team, and it’s definitely testing her patience,” Doyle said. “But she’s been doing really well, staying positive and bringing energy for our team.”
A break in the action
When you’ve begun the season winning 15 of 17, are off to a 3-1 start in conference play and have surged onto the national scene, a reprieve from game action may not always be the most welcome thing. Teams want to remain in a productive routine and keep momentum flowing.
But no one is complaining about having nearly a week between games. The time between Sunday’s win at Illinois and Saturday’s showdown versus Purdue is Iowa’s longest break inside Big Ten play until mid-February, when the Hawkeyes have a full week between contests against Northwestern (Feb. 11) and Wisconsin (Feb. 18).
“We have kind of gotten in a pattern of how we do things," junior forward Hannah Stewart said. "But I think because we’re so short on numbers (due to injuries), it’s kind of a breath of relief a little bit, just getting some rest because we have so many people who are getting so many minutes. It’s kind of nice.”
Iowa’s health issues have forced Bluder to tweak practice, in an effort to avoid losing a third player. The Hawkeyes already had one practice injury with Meyer, and extra precautions are being taken to ensure another doesn’t happen.
“I find myself really talking a lot more to our practice squad of guys about how hard to go, how hard not to go, how to be careful that they don’t hurt anybody,” Bluder said. “Those accidents happen, and they’re certainly not intentional or anything like that. But they do happen. So I’ve found myself definitely shortening practices and going a little bit easier with the guys than I have in the past.”
'Focus and patience'
After Bluder called Iowa’s early-conference assist and turnover numbers alarming coming off the Maryland loss, the Hawkeyes quickly turned things around at Illinois.
Iowa had 23 turnovers against the Terrapins and hadn’t had a 20-assist performance through its first three Big Ten games, after producing 11 such outings in the nonconference. But the Hawkeyes rebounded with 24 assists and a season-low seven turnovers versus Illinois, marking Iowa’s first single-digit turnover game since Nov. 19.
“Focus and patience,” redshirt freshman Alexis Sevillian said in regard to the biggest factors in limiting turnovers. “Obviously if that pass isn’t there, don’t make that pass. Make the easy one reversing the ball — that opens up a lot on the offensive end. And reading the defense, just making sure if that pass is there that it’s there. And if it’s not there, you can get something else or look for it later.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.