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IOWA CITY — It was Michigan that put this tailspin into motion.
Six games — and five losses — later, the Iowa Hawkeyes are trying to wash the slump away.
“Cleansing ... that’s a good way to describe it,” Coach Lisa Bluder said. “A win would cover up a lot of aches and pains. I hope it comes this week.”
The Hawkeyes (13-7 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) try again to end the slide Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
Michigan (11-8, 3-5) aims for its first season sweep of the Hawkeyes since the 2009-10 season. The Wolverines won the first encounter, 82-75, Jan. 7 in Ann Arbor, rallying from a 17-point third-quarter deficit.
Prior to that, Iowa was 12-2 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten and sailing along. They haven’t been the same team since.
“It’s frustrating,” Iowa junior Ally Disterhoft said. “There’s not really another word that can describe it.
“We have to start playing a full game. Turnovers have been a big issue. We need to recognize how important it is to value the ball.”
Through this slump, the Hawkeyes have been a 20- to 30-minute team. In the fourth quarters of their eight Big Ten games, Iowa averages 14.3 points but allows 20.9.
That includes a 30-13 beating in the first meeting with Michigan.
“We’ve got to get fighters on the court,” said Bluder, who made two changes in the starting lineup prior to Sunday’s 90-73 loss to Purdue — Tania Davis replaced Alexa Kastanek, and Megan Gustafson took the place of Kali Peschel.
“Tania has shown excellent progress,” Bluder said. “She’s out there on the floor leading with emotion.
“The decision with Megan ... that was a productivity thing.”
Peschel and Nicole Smith, a pair of seniors, sat out the Purdue game after violating an unspecified team rule. Bluder said both are eligible to play Thursday. She said Peschel won’t start, and that “no decision has been made” whether Peschel will continue as a co-captain.
Meanwhile, Christina Buttenham “played her best game as a Hawkeye” Sunday, according to Bluder. “She shot well. She defended well. She looked like a fighter out there. I loved it.”
Buttenham said, “I’m seeing the floor a lot better than I did at the beginning of the season. It definitely builds a lot of confidence. I hope to keep it going.”
Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty is averaging 21.7 points per game.
Despite the losing streak and a major slide in RPI (down from 22 a week ago to 49), Iowa remains in the NCAA tournament mock brackets by ESPN.com’s Charlie Creme, as a No. 9 seed.
“I still think we can get there if we get to 9-9,” Bluder said. “Once we get to nine, we’ll change our goal to 10.”
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