Iowa women's basketball: Lisa Bluder wants 'blinders on' amid Hawkeyes' recent surge

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Momentum is flowing after five straight wins and a nice surge up the polls (not to mention just two losses in the past two months). But Lisa Bluder wants her Hawkeyes locked in amid the success.

“I just want to keep them level-headed, blinders on going into each game and preparing just as hard for each game the way we have all season long,” the Iowa coach said Wednesday. “Our team has done such a great job of that. They’ve had great focus, and they need to continue to do that."

Iowa forward Hannah Stewart (21) high-fives Iowa forward Amanda Ollinger (43) after a NCAA Big Ten Conference women's basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. The Hawkeyes defeated Purdue, 72-58.

Midway through the conference slate, No. 12 Iowa (16-4, 7-2 Big Ten Conference) is rounding into its preseason-hype form. There haven’t been any extended lulls so far, but the Hawkeyes in recent weeks have looked more like a team chasing a league title.

The next challenge comes Thursday at Michigan (12-9, 3-6) — a 5 p.m. tip on BTN. Iowa handled the Wolverines just two weeks ago, emerging with a 75-61 win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

In turn, this prep will be more a review than anything else.

“It’s a little bit easier on the players because the prep is more in their minds,” Bluder said. “They know their style. You can watch somebody on tape, but playing against them is a totally different thing. It doesn’t help one team over another. It’s just easier on both teams, because they kind of know what to expect.”

Part of Iowa’s success this year has been avoiding unnecessary slip-ups. The Hawkeyes’ four losses — Florida State, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Purdue — are all against teams in Charlie Crème’s latest NCAA Bracketology. There hasn’t been a letdown performance against an inferior squad.

That’ll be what Iowa tries to avoid Thursday. Michigan has dropped six of its past nine, including four of five. Anything can happen in Big Ten play, but this is another one the Hawkeyes should snag.

The focus has been there so far. Bluder doesn’t want anything to change.

“Our experience is very important (to staying grounded), Bluder said. “We’re a pretty veteran team with three seniors in our starting lineup and two juniors, and certainly that’s an advantage for us to have that type of experience. We’ve been around the block and know how to handle these situations. You know how to go on the road. You know how to handle a crowd.”

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.