Iowa's Lisa Bluder has a shot at win No. 700 on Sunday
IOWA CITY, Ia. — If Iowa beats Washington State Sunday to advance to the WNIT semifinals, head coach Lisa Bluder will snare career win No. 700.
"At this point in your career, you know it’s going to happen sooner or later," the coach in her 33rd year quipped. "You know it’s going to happen this year or next year, so it’s not like it’s that big a deal. Because it’s going to happen, right?"
Well … it is kind of a big deal. Only 28 coaches in the history of women’s college basketball have reached 700 wins. The late Tennessee legend Pat Summitt tops the list with 1,098. And the now-retired Joan Bonvicini sits two above Bluder at 701.
Right now, Bluder’s got 169 wins from 1984-1990 at St. Ambrose; 187 wins at Drake from 1990-2000; and 343 as a Hawkeye since 2000.
"Whenever you reach some of these milestones, you think of people, right?" Bluder said. "You think of the great staff you have, the great administrative support that you have, all the kids. Today (Friday) I had one of my players from Drake stop in to say hi. Those are the things that are really meaningful in this — all the people you get to know over that amount of time."
As much as Bluder downplays 700, her players are excited to potentially be the team that got her there.
"It's just special knowing that being a part of that, adding to a legacy that's known for excellence,” said Alexa Kastanek, who was also part of win No. 650 in 2015. "So I know for us, it's just been a tremendous experience, and we're just grateful to continue to add to it."
'There is so much energy in there'
The Hawkeyes now boast the two largest crowds of the 56 WNIT games entering the weekend: 3,226 in Round 1 vs. Missouri State, and 3,735 Thursday night vs. Colorado.
Both are below Iowa’s season average of 4,582. But both crowds — especially Thursday night’s — sounded much bigger. Just as loud as the 4,579 who came for Iowa vs. Iowa State. Pretty darn close to the 7,043 at the Maryland game.
"I think they were louder; I think they were more engaged," Bluder said of Thursday’s crowd. "I feel like maybe it’s the whole drama of postseason play. Maybe it is a different crowd that comes. I don’t know exactly. But I do feel the energy. And the crowds have seemed bigger than what they are even because I think there is so much energy in there."
The WNIT is the only marquee postseason tournament that allows home-court advantage. And so far, the Hawkeyes have exploited theirs at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, outscoring opponents 253-209 and outshooting them 54 percent to 39.4 percent.
None of the other remaining eight teams in the field have drawn like Iowa, which bodes well for more home-court advantage if it can keep winning.
Previewing the Cougars
But first, of course, comes the winning.
Washington State is 15-19 with a 6-12 record in the Pac-12. It’s 4-10 on the road.
The Cougars mostly struggle from the field. They’re shooting 38.6 percent overall, 31.1 percent from long range and 57.1 percent from the line. Those numbers for opponents: 41, 33.8 and 68.
They do have a few "eye-opening wins," as Bluder called them. In nonconference, they beat Nebraska by 14 and held Maryland to 79 points in a 10-point loss. In Pac-12 play they have wins over Oregon, UCLA, USC, Cal, Utah and Colorado.
"Obviously, there are some pretty impressive games in there even though the record isn’t super glamorous or anything," Bluder said. "Again, we have to remind ourselves they do play in the Pac-12."
Washington State’s top two scorers, forward Borislava Hristova (14.7 ppg on 45.4 percent shooting) and guard Chanelle Molina (12.8 ppg, 51.5 percent), have been out since December and January, respectively, with season-ending injuries.
Guard Alexys Swedlund currently leads the team with 11.7 points per game. She scored 20 in Washington State’s Round 3 win over UC Davis.
Iowa (20-13, 8-8 Big Ten) vs. Washington State (15-19, 6-12 Pac-12)
When/where: 2 p.m., Carver-Hawkeye Arena
TV: Big Ten Network Plus
About Washington State: Its top two scorers, forward Borislava Hristova (14.7 ppg, 45.4 percent) and guard Chanelle Molina (12.8 ppg, 51.5 percent), have been out since December and January, respectively, with season-ending injuries. Guard Alexys Swedlund currently leads the team with 11.7 points per game.