Lisa Bluder breaks down Iowa’s 76-70 loss to Purdue. Dargan Southard / The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. — As No. 20 Iowa looks to overcome its recent rough patch, the Hawkeyes will again be tested with an offensive juggernaut that can light it up from deep.
Iowa (15-4, 3-3 Big Ten), which has dropped three of the last four as it looks to get healthy, will trek to Minnesota (15-4, 4-3) on Sunday to face one of the Big Ten’s most potent offenses.
“We know they’re such an explosive team, one of the best in the Big Ten,” Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said. “They are an unbelievable 3-point shooting team. They rank in the top-20 in threes made in the nation, and they have four people who can shoot threes. So it’s not like you can really concentrate on one person.”
Atop the scouting report are Kenisha Bell (19.6 ppg) and Carlie Wagner (17.9 ppg), two primary reasons why Minnesota ranks sixth nationally at 85.6 points per game. Behind that dynamic duo is freshman Destiny Pitts, who’s shooting 40 percent from deep and has delivered double figures in six of the Gophers’ seven Big Ten contests.
Only 12 teams in the country have attempted more treys than Minnesota’s 498. Only five teams in the country have made more than the Gophers’ 186.
“We need to focus on making sure we cover the 3-point shooters, but we can run on them I think,” said senior Chase Coley, a Minneapolis native. “That’s what we’ve been doing on teams all season.”
The Hawkeyes are averaging close to 80 points per game this season themselves, but that number has been around 70 through six conference games. Bluder said “there’s a chance” that injured sophomore Makenzie Meyer (hand) returns Sunday, which would significantly help Iowa’s currently-thin backcourt.
But the Hawkeyes also believe their recent errors can be fixed from within.
“I think the most important thing is to relax,” junior Megan Gustafson said. “Everyone has off shooting nights, and so being able to know that you don’t ever have to doubt yourself. Even if you miss a couple, it’s OK. You’re going to hit the next couple shots, and so being able to have that belief in yourself and your teammates is really important right now.”
Although Iowa is still certainly trending toward the NCAA Tournament, it did drop in Charlie Crème’s latest bracket that was released on Thursday. The ESPN.com women’s bracketologist slid the Hawkeyes from a No. 4 seed to a No. 8 seed, no longer a host for the first two rounds.
But Iowa can get back on track Sunday before a monumental game next Thursday versus No. 8 Ohio State. Slowing the Gophers’ high-powered offense is imperative.
“Great balance, great offensive-scoring team,” Bluder said. “Really have to be careful with defense in transition.”
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.