Iowa's Italy trip about more than just winning games

Ryan Murken
Iowa's Ally Disterhoft drives to the hoop during the Hawkeyes' game against Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

A college coach admitting they aren't concerned about the outcome of a game is a rare revelation.

In fact, rare might not even be the right description.

More accurately, college coaches are never indifferent about the final score.

As Iowa prepared to embark on its 11-day foreign trip, head coach Lisa Bluder let it slip that earning victories in the Hawkeyes' three games in Italy isn't the primary focus.

"Yes we want to win three games but to me that is secondary," Bluder said. "The real benefit basketball-wise, we just had it, it came in the last 10 days and now it's about having fun and being rewarded for 10 hard days and going out to build that chemistry that our team is known for."

That benefit began July 30.

The NCAA allows a team one foreign trip every four seasons and with that trip comes 10 additional practices.

For an Iowa team with eight underclassmen among its 14 players, those 10, 3-hour practices were extra valuable.

And beneficial.

"It couldn't have come at a better time because of the youth of our team and we got so much accomplished in these last 10 days, I feel great," Bluder said. "I feel really good about what we have accomplished in the last 10 days."

Iowa will hop a 91/2 hour flight to Rome on Tuesday and arrive early Wednesday morning.

The Hawkeyes begin competition on Friday with a 6 p.m. (11 a.m. Central) game against Palazzetto Sandro Pertini in Ponte Buggianese.

Iowa will also take on Asd Pallacanestro Muggia on Aug. 18 in Trieste and face TK Hannover on Aug. 19 in Inverigo.

Winning is not be the overall objective of a trip that will feature stops in Florence, Venice and Milan among others.

Yet, winning isn't a complete afterthought, either.

"We want to go over there and win those three games, obviously that is the goal every day but the coaches have really stressed that it's really about more than that, it's about building chemistry and having fun soaking in that culture," junior Ally Disterhoft said. "For some people this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so we want to enjoy those moments because, as they say, these are the best four years of your life."

The 10 practices leading up to the trip concluded on Monday.

Now the Hawkeyes, which return just three players that averaged double-digit minutes per game on last year's 26-8 Sweet 16 team, will have chance to translate what they did on the practice court into a game situation.

Iowa is hoping that gives the Hawkeyes a jump on their competition when regular-season play begins.

"It's been really beneficial for us getting these 10 practices," senior Kali Peschel said. "We are building team chemistry on the court and getting the opportunity to work with the coaches before a lot of other teams in the Big Ten or teams in our preseason get a chance to and that's huge."

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