Iowa women's basketball: Hawkeyes searching for road gold as they trek to Minnesota
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Lisa Bluder stopped short of calling it a must-win, but the Hawkeyes could certainly use a strong road showing in the worst way.
Through two conference games away from Carver-Hawkeyes Arena, No. 17 Iowa (11-4, 2-2 Big Ten Conference) hasn’t looked crisp in different ways. The Hawkeyes sputtered out of the break and played catch-up the whole fourth quarter in their 84-70 loss at Michigan State. And then on Thursday, Iowa couldn’t hold an eight-point final-period lead before falling at Purdue.
Wins away from home are like gold in the Big Ten. Heading into Sunday’s slate, there have only been seven road victories in conference play through two weeks of action. Iowa, which faces No. 20 Minnesota (12-3, 1-3) on Monday at Williams Arena, hopes to finally add to that count.
Iowa’s biggest road woe? Well, it’s the issue that usually appears when the Hawkeyes stumble — not enough help, outside of Megan Gustafson. In its two conference road games, Iowa is shooting 20 percent from deep (7-for-35) and has had just one double-figure performance from a guard.
A small sample size? Sure. But it’s no secret that Iowa needs much more than its all-American post to slog through the Big Ten grind.
“You can’t stop shooting,” Bluder said, “but maybe you don’t take the first one that you look at — maybe you wait until you have that in-out opportunity. We’ve got shooters on this team; they’ve got to figure out their mojo.
“They shoot enough; they’re in the gym — I know they are. They shoot great percentages (in practices), and they just have to take it to the game. They’ve got to learn how to take it into a game.”
That wasn’t more evident than in Thursday’s final stretch, as Iowa guards went 1-for-7 from the field in the fourth quarter at Purdue. The Boilermakers closed on an emphatic 20-7 run.
Too many miscues and mistakes during the game's most pivotal stretch. Iowa, which entered the season with Big Ten title talk and more, needs to be better in winning time Monday.
“It takes a little bit of mental toughness, especially when you’re on the road, to be able to lock in and focus on that play to the most of your ability,” Bluder said. “You want players playing like that for 40 minutes, but, man, when you’re in crunch time for those last three or four minutes, you’ve really got to put it together and have ultimate focus on what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Minnesota has experienced much of the same up-and-down play inside the Big Ten. The Golden Gophers roared to a 12-0 start, climbed as high as No. 13 in the Coaches Poll, then dropped three straight conference games.
Minnesota should be raring to go this week, though. Led by Kenisha Bell and Destiny Pitts, the Gophers have Iowa at their place in front of an ESPN2 audience. Former Minnesota and WNBA standout Lindsay Whalen has got Williams Arena rocking in her first year as head coach.
Iowa has its own horses — and they need to be sharper when playing late in enemy territory. If they can manage that, the Hawkeyes have a chance to snag a solid road win.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.