It's February now, and urgency increases for Iowa women's basketball

"Roller-coaster week" behind, Hawkeyes need more from the perimeter

Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder reacts to the officiating during the Hawkeyes’ loss to Nebraska on Sunday. Bluder was named as a recipient of the First Lady Award by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder reacts to the officiating during the Hawkeyes’ loss to Nebraska on Sunday. Bluder was named as a recipient of the First Lady Award by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When the calendar flips to February, every game is magnified.

“Every game is important, and every time you get a win, it’s huge,” Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said.

Seven regular-season games remain for the Hawkeyes (16-6 overall, 4-5 Big Ten). It’s likely that they’ll need four wins — at least — to return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year absence.

The home stretch that is February begins Thursday at Michigan State (14-8, 4-5). Tipoff is 5 p.m. (Iowa time) at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

Despite five losses in their last seven games, the Hawkeyes haven’t played themselves out of the NCAA. But they’re wandering closer to the bubble than they’d like.

ESPN.com bracketologist Charlie Creme has Iowa listed as a No. 9 seed in his latest projections.

Iowa is coming off a bipolar week — an exhilarating 103-89 win over No. 14 Ohio State, then a baffling 92-74 loss to Nebraska in which the Huskers led by as many as 36 points.

“Obviously, last week was a roller coaster,” Bluder said. “Now, it’s on to (this) week.”

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Injury-burdened Michigan State has dropped three straight games, but the Spartans have won eight of their last nine games against the Hawkeyes at East Lansing.

Michigan State has four players (Sidney Cooks, Jenna Allen, Shay Colley and Branndais Agee) that average between 10.5 and 10.8 points per game.

Iowa’s Megan Gustafson went over the 1,500-point mark for her career Sunday. The key for Iowa’s stretch run is to rediscover its accuracy from the perimeter. Kathleen Doyle, Makenzie Meyer and Alexis Sevillian are shooting a combined 76-of-235 (32.3 percent) from the floor in Big Ten play.

“I think (Sevillian) is putting a lot of pressure on herself,” Bluder said. “It’s a long season. Lexi is a freshman. Mak and Kathleen are sophomores.

“They’re young. We’re paying the price now, but we’ll reap the benefits down the line.”

Iowa has 10 scholarship players on its roster, plus walk-on Zion Sanders. Chase Coley is the lone senior, though it’s likely that redshirt junior Carly Mohns will forego her final season of eligibility and rest her achy knees.

Bluder has four high school seniors signed for next year, and probably won’t add another to offset the likely departure of Mohns.

“The four we have coming in, I really like,” she said. “We’re not out there beating the bushes, actively seeking seniors.”

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On Wednesday, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union announced that Bluder will receive the First Lady Award March 3 at the girls’ state basketball tournament.

She is the 13th recipient of the award.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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