Iowa women 2-0 since starting over

Ryan Murken
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder questions a call during the Hawkeyes' game against Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016.

Mired in a rare three-game losing skid and looking for answers Iowa needed a fresh start.

So 20 games into the season and just shy of halfway through the Big Ten schedule Iowa started a new season, complete with media day.

“Coach (Jan) Jensen had the idea to have a news conference in our locker room and we acted like it was media day at a brand new season and we started all over again and each of the players was asked to come up and answer questions, so that was a lot of fun,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I think sometimes you have to start fresh and it’s worked.”

Iowa has looked like a new team in its new season.

The Hawkeyes are 2-0 since hitting the reset button, outscoring Michigan and Northwestern by a combined 31 points.

Iowa’s 79-64 win at Northwestern on Sunday was its largest margin of victory in a Big Ten road game since an 81-56 win at Illinois in 2014.

“I really think the idea of a new season has helped us,” freshman center Megan Gustafson said. “We had a rough stretch there for a little while and we kind of just forgot about that and really came together.”

The back-to-back wins pulled Iowa (15-7) back to .500 in Big Ten play at 5-5.

Iowa is locked in a seventh-place tie with Indiana entering Thursday’s game with the Hoosiers in Bloomington.

“It’s something that the coaching staff, we sat down after that third loss in a row and we said we have to change something, we have to figure something out,” Bluder said. “We started really pitching to the team the idea of a new season and they bought in.”

It’s not just that Iowa is unbeaten in its new season, it is how the Hawkeyes have earned their last two wins.

The high-flying Hawkeye offense that helped make Iowa such a difficult team to defend the past two seasons has returned.

Iowa is averaging 82 points over the past two games and has five players averaging 9.5 points or more during those games.

The Hawkeyes averaged 18.5 assists and 13 turnovers in the wins over Michigan and Northwestern, compared to their average of 15.6 assists and 16.1 turnovers on the season.

“I just feel like they are having more fun,” Bluder said. “Assists are better, turnovers are better, we are scoring more points right now."

Bluder is hoping the 2-0 start is just the beginning of the Iowa’s success in its new season.

Following Thursday’s road game at Indiana, Iowa has four straight games against teams that are 6-4 or better in Big Ten play.

That stretch includes home games against Michigan State and Purdue, which both defeated Iowa during the Hawkeyes’ three-game losing skid.

“It is one week and I understand that and things ebb and flow throughout the length of a season, but there is no better time to get on a roll than right now,” Bluder said. “So why not us?”

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