Iowa women celebrate small victories as big wins pile up

Ryan Murken

Every week the victories get bigger for the No. 14 Iowa women's basketball team. But coach Lisa Bluder celebrates the little victories, too.

In 2015, Iowa has won at No. 16 at Rutgers, knocked off ranked Nebraska twice — including the Hawkeyes' first win in Lincoln since 2005 on Thursday — and topped Ohio State.

"It's easy to get caught up in everything that's going on with all the games we play, but we definitely try to take time to celebrate the little things, the small victories, too," Bluder said. "We try to remind the kids of those things."

The Hawkeyes (20-4, 11-2) own a two-game lead over Rutgers and Ohio State for second place in the Big Ten Conference standings with five games to play. So every game and every win is big for Iowa.

Sunday's 5 p.m. home game against Indiana (14-10, 5-9) is no exception.

When Bluder talks small victories, she's not pointing to wins but to circumstances surrounding those wins.

Lately, an Iowa victory often comes with a 'last first time since' tag line.

Those are the moments Bluder stresses.

"We certainly want to celebrate the small victories because I think that keeps the motivation high. I think that keeps enthusiasm high," Bluder said. "Certainly we also want to maintain the focus, and I think our team has done a really good job of that because of the three seniors that we have and their leadership."

Iowa is off to its best start in conference play at 11-2 since opening 12-1 in 1995-96.

The Hawkeyes are off to their best overall start at 20-4 since opening 22-2 in 1995-96 and are No.7 in the latest RPI ratings.

"Iowa hasn't been this high in the RPI in a long time," Bluder said. "We want to remind of kids of those things. Sometimes you have to stop and explain that what we're doing is special because the last time we started a season like this was 1995, and a lot of these girls weren't even born yet. We want them to enjoy what they are doing."

Iowa will try to add to its victory total, both big and small, today against an Indiana team that has lost six of its last eight.

The Hoosiers are coming off an 85-58 win over Illinois on Wednesday. They are led by Tyra Buss and Larryn Brooks, who each average 12 points per game.

Iowa is riding a three-game winning streak and has won 10 of its last 11 games.

Balance has been the key for Iowa, which moves closer to the discussion of best team of Bluder's tenure with every win.

Ally Disterhoft leads four Iowa players averaging in double figures with 15.9 points per game. Melissa Dixon. a 5-foot-8 senior guard, ranks second in the nation in 3-point field goals per game with an average of 3.71 and fourth in 3-point percentage at 47.3. She averages 15.2 points per game.

Center Bethany Doolittle averages 13.1 points per game while Samantha Logic, a member of the midseason top 20 for the John R. Wooden award, averages 11.8 points and ranks fourth in the nation with 7.5 assists per game.

"I've had a lot of great individual players, but this has to be one of the best teams that we've ever had here because it's just that — a team," Bluder said. "This is a whole team, you've got the point guard, the center, the shooter, the seniors, the leaders, Ally (Disterhoft) is so good, so steady, Whitney (Jennings) is so quick, you have all the components."

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.

Indiana (14-10, 4-9 Big Ten) at No. 14 Iowa (20-4, 11-2 Big Ten)

• Specifics — 5 p.m., Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City

• Following the game — TV: BTN Plus. Radio: KXIC (800 AM), WMT (AM 600), WHO (1040 AM) Hawkeye Radio Network. Live scoring:

• Preview — Iowa completed a season sweep of No. 22 Nebraska on Thursday with its first win in Lincoln since 2005. The Hawkeyes haven't lost at home this season and haven't lost to Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena since 1994.