Thinking about offense while playing defense can be a recipe for disaster.
For No. 20 Iowa it was that offensive mindset on the defensive end of the court that lifted the Hawkeyes to a win in an unconventional way.
With an emphasis on securing rebounds to set up its offensive attack, Iowa outrebounded Michigan State by three on Sunday as the Hawkeyes held on for a 52-50 win, despite matching its season low scoring output.
"We talk about every rebound is worth a point and try to put it into an offensive mindset like that," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "Whether it's an offensive or defensive rebound, every rebound converts basically to a point if teams are shooting 50 percent, so we focus on taking those opportunities and trying to get as many as we can."
Sunday's win was the second time in the last 14 games that Iowa (14-3, 5-1 Big Ten) had outrebounded an opponent.
The 41-38 rebounding edge by Iowa on Sunday came against a Michigan State team that entered the game second in the Big Ten in rebounding margin, outrebounding foes by 8.4 rebounds per game.
"I think it is just a conscious effort. We work on it every day, but we've worked on it every day since last June that we have practice, but I think our players are understanding how important it is and they are identifying who their better rebounders are and making a point to find them in the zone," Bluder said.
After being outrebounded in eight consecutive games by an average of more than 11 per game, the Hawkeyes have held the rebounding edge in two of their last four games and finished even in the rebounding department against Northwestern.
The offensive mindset is key in the rebounding stat, as an increase in rebounding turns into more possessions for the Hawkeyes' efficient offense.
Michigan State attempted three more field goals than Iowa on Sunday, but the Hawkeyes shot 12 more free throws in the win.
"It's huge in limiting possessions and giving us more possessions by crashing on offense," junior forward Kali Peschel said. "It was a two point game at the end and it was because we had more possessions, because we won the rebounding war."
Iowa is hitting its rebounding stride at the right time.
The Hawkeyes face a Michigan team on Thursday that ranks third in the Big Ten in rebounding margin at plus-5.4 and is second in the league in offensive rebounds (14.9 per game).
Just as it was against the Spartans, rebounding is a group effort for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa doesn't have a player averaging more than 6.8 rebounds per game or ranked in the top 14 in rebounding in the league.
Instead the Hawkeyes have rebounded by committee, with three players averaging more than 5.5 per game.
Point guard Samantha Logic and center Bethany Doolittle both average 6.8 rebounds per game.
"You just have to really focus in on it," Logic said. "It has to be a key for us every single game."
• FOUL OR DEFEND: Leading by three in the final seconds against the Spartans, the much discussed decision between fouling or defending was easy for Bluder.
The Hawkeyes followed their philosophy: they fouled twice in the final seconds.
Iowa sent Tori Jankoska to the line with under a second to play.
Jankoska made both and Iowa held on to win.
"That is our philosophy," Bluder said. "Our philosophy is to foul when it enters the back court and I think our players played that perfectly."
• NUISANCE: Ally Disterhofts's sore wrist isn't going to keep the sophomore off the court any time soon, but Bluder did acknowledge on Tuesday that the injury and the accompanying wrap that Disterhoft has played with this season isn't going away.
"It's a nuisance," Bluder said. "It comes and goes. I think it is affecting her shot a little bit mentally, if not physically, but certainly it's not allowing her to not get as many reps as she would like and that kind of messes with you mentally as well."
• BOBBLEHEAD: Fans got their first glimpse at Iowa's bobblehead list last week when Melissa Dixon's likeness was given away to fans.
Bethany Doolittle bobblehead night is Thursday, with Logic following on Monday against Nebraska.
"I haven't seen it yet," Logic said. "I saw Dixon's and I know Beth's is on Thursday so we'll have to see how those look."
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.