Before hosting Penn State last month, Lisa Bluder offered a warning to anyone willing to listen: The Nittany Lions are better than their record shows.
More than a month later, Bluder is offering up the same cautious tale as Iowa prepares for a regular-season rematch at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
A 13-point home loss to the Nittany Lions (10-17, 5-11 Big Ten Conference) back on Jan. 20 has provided Bluder with more than a little help in getting her message across this time.
“I said this before we played them the last time: They are better than their record indicates, and they still are,” Bluder said. “They’ve gotten better every game this year.”
The record may not sparkle for Penn State, which has lost six of nine since its win at Iowa and sits alone in 11th place in the Big Ten standings.
However, the Hawkeyes (17-11, 7-9) found out the hard way how dangerous the Nittany Lions can be.
Iowa never led and trailed by as many as 22 points in the 82-69 January defeat.
“That’s one of those tapes that you just want to throw away, quite honestly,” Bluder said. “You don’t even want to look at it, because it kind of makes you sick to your stomach.”
Penn State didn’t just come out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a win last month. The Nittany Lions controlled the game in seemingly every way.
Iowa was outrebounded 48-34 and shot just 35 percent from the field. The Hawkeyes were 4-of-25 from 3-point range while allowing Penn State to shoot 49 percent from the floor.
“When you look at what they did to us last time, that’s not us,” Iowa sophomore Chase Coley said. “We want to go out and show them who we really are.”
The Hawkeyes have won two straight games over teams they previously lost to, including a 76-73 win over Indiana on Sunday.
“I think that things are starting to come together,” Iowa junior Ally Disterhoft said. “We have a really young team, but I think our youngsters have been stepping up and even leading this team on occasion, and that has been really nice to see."
Following the Penn State loss, the Hawkeyes shuffled their starting lineup by inserting freshman Tania Davis and Megan Gustafson. The freshmen have brought energy to the Iowa lineup over the past nine games.
Gustafson is averaging 11.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game since joining the starting lineup, while Davis is averaging 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per game in that span.
“It was a bad game for us. I would venture to say it was our worst game of the year,” Bluder said. “How much of it was us and how much of it was Penn State, who knows? But I know that we are a much different team than we were when we played Penn State at home.”
Penn State is coming off a 78-73 loss to Michigan on Saturday and has split its last four games. The Nittany Lions own a road win at Michigan State during that stretch.
Penn State is led by freshman point guard Teniya Page, who averages 15.6 points per game.
“She is a terrific point guard. She shoots the 3 well, she is so fast in transition and is a good defensive player,” Bluder said.
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
WHO: Iowa (17-11, 7-9 Big Ten) at Penn State (10-17, 5-11)
WHEN/WHERE: 6 p.m., Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pa.
STAT LEADERS: Iowa — Ally Disterhoft 16.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg; Chase Coley 11.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg. Penn State — Teniya Page 15.6 ppg, 3.9 apg; Brianna Banks 13.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg.
WHAT TO WATCH: The battle on the boards will be key if Iowa is to get out of the Bryce Jordan Center with a win for the second straight season.
Iowa is plus-1.6 in rebounding margin on the season, while Penn State is being outrebounded by an average of 2.6 rebounds per game on the year.
However, the Nittany Lions held a 48-34 rebounding edge in the first meeting in Iowa City and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds in the win.