Iowa opens WNIT against Ball State

Ryan Murken

Lisa Bluder believed her team was an NCAA Tournament team going into the season.

Monday night as the Hawkeyes gathered with hopes of hearing their name called during the NCAA selection show, Bluder still believed her team was worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid.

“Maybe that is just because you are a competitor, but I really saw us being back in the NCAA Tournament, that’s where I wanted us to be,” Bluder said. “You know wanting to be and doing it is two different things.”

Iowa didn’t end up where it wanted or expected to be in the postseason.

The NCAA Tournament call never came on Monday, in its place was an invitation to the WNIT.

Rather than preparing for an NCAA opener for the ninth straight season, Bluder and her staff spent Monday evening prepping for Thursday’s 7 p.m. WNIT opener against Ball State (21-9) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“It’s not what we wanted to be doing last night, breaking down Ball State until one in the morning, but you have to do it,” Bluder said.

The key for the Hawkeyes' postseason success is just that, moving on.

Iowa (19-13) showed signs throughout the season of wrapping up an NCAA berth but endured conference losing streaks of three and four games and won just four of its final 10 games.

“Our team truly believes that we are better than what we have shown this year, I think that is the general consensus and I think that you just have to forget what has happened in the past,” Disterhoft said. “You can’t change it at this point and you just have to move forward and do the best you can with what you’ve been given.”

The moving forward begins for the Hawkeyes on Thursday against a Ball State team that finished second in the Mid-American Conference West Divison.

The Cardinals won five of their final six games to end the regular season before falling to Eastern Michigan in the MAC Tournament.

Led by MAC player of the year Nathalie Fontaine and her team-high 20.7 points per game, Ball State features four players averaging double figures.

A three-time first team all-conference pick, the 6-foot-2 Fontaine averages a double-double grabbing 10.2 rebounds per game.

Moriah Monaco, Jill Morrison, and Renee Bennett, a 6-foot-5 junior center all averaging between 10.1 and 10.9 points per game.

With a win on Thursday, Iowa would face the winner of Thursday’s opening-round matchup between St. Louis and Arkansas-Little Rock.

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

Ball State (21-9) at Iowa (19-13)

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena

What to watch: Iowa returns to game action for the first time in nearly two weeks in its first WNIT appearance since 2005. ... The Hawkeyes have won four of their last six games including a 97-85 win over Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. ... Ball State has won five of its last seven games after falling to Eastern Michigan in the MAC Tournament. ... The Cardinals are holding opponents to 61.3 points per game and have allowed more than 70 points six times this season.