Iowa prepared for third meeting with Nebraska

Ryan Murken
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The objective for Iowa at the Big Ten Tournament has always been crystal clear, even if the Hawkeyes' first opponent has been a little foggy.

Iowa (23-6, 14-4 Big Ten) spent four days this week preparing to win a title at the tournament that opened on Wednesday at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

The second-seeded Hawkeyes just didn't know who they were going to have to play to win one.

No. 14 Iowa departed Iowa City on Thursday unsure of who its quarterfinal opponent would be and didn't get the answer to that question until seventh-seed and defending tournament champion Nebraska (21-9, 10-8) defeated No. 10 seed Illinois 86-71 on Thursday night.

"It's a little different when you leave town and you don't know who you are going to play," Iowa senior Melissa Dixon said. "Our goal has always been to win this tournament and for us seniors it's our last chance to win it so we really want to do that no matter who we play."

Nebraska and Iowa will meet for the third time this season at 6 p.m. in Friday's quarterfinal.

Iowa swept the regular season series from Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes snapped an eight-game losing skid against the Cornhuskers with a 78-72 overtime win on Jan. 26 in Iowa City and completed the season sweep with a 69-61 come-from-behind win in Lincoln on Feb. 12.

Iowa will now try to erase a three-game Big Ten Tournament losing streak to Nebraska that includes a 72-65 loss in last year's Big Ten Tournament title game.

The four current seniors on Iowa's roster have lost to Nebraska every year in the Big Ten Tournament.

"It's our goal and it's been our goal since we got here to win this tournament," Iowa senior Sam Logic said. "Last year we were so close and we went like we had the potential to win that game and getting that close gives us a lot of motivation."

While Iowa had to prepare for Friday's quarterfinal without knowing its opponent, the Hawkeyes now have the advantage of coming in rested.

In last year's title game it was Iowa that played an extra game at the tournament. Iowa won three games in three days before falling to Nebraska in the title game.

"They are such a good defensive team but I think it's an advantage that they had to play today," Bluder said. "That physically wears you out when you don't have a deep team."

Iowa closed the regular season with back-to-back wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota to secure the second seed in the conference tournament.

If Iowa can win two straight games in Hoffman Estates, they would earn a second straight appearance in the conference tournament title game.

"We know that we won three games in three days last year and this year we only have to play three games in three days," Logic said. "Obviously these are good teams and we have to play well but we have a lot of confidence."

Nebraska was impressive while downing Illinois for the third time this season on Thursday.

The Cornhuskers shot 62 percent, the second best shooting performance ever in a Big Ten Tournament game, and got seven 3-pointers and a career-high 26 points from freshman Natalie Romeo.

Iowa spent time this week preparing for both possible opponents but is certainly familiar with the Cornhuskers having faced Nebraska 10 times over the past four seasons.

"We had to give a little bit of time to each and you couldn't go into either team as in-depth as we normally would," Bluder said. "I think Nebraska is a little bit easier scout for us because we have played them twice and more recently."

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Nebraska (21-9, 10-8 Big Ten) vs. No. 14 Iowa (23-6, 14-4 Big Ten)

• Specifics — 6 p.m. Sears Center, Hoffman Estates, Illinois

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

• Preview — Iowa gets another shot at its Big Ten Tournament nemesis Nebraska in a rematch of last year's title game won by the Cornhuskers. Nebraska has defeated Iowa in the conference tournament every season since joining the league in the 2011-2012 season.