Iowa women fighting for NCAA lives

Hawkeyes open Big Ten tournament Thursday against Northwestern

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INDIANAPOLIS — Iowa might be able to play its way into the NCAA women’s basketball tournament with a pair of wins in the Big Ten tournament.

That would mean having to upset top-seed Ohio State in the quarterfinals for the second win, but Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder isn’t concerned about that.

Well, at least for now.

“You have to win the first one or you don’t have a chance at the second one,” Bluder said. “It’s not even worth talking about that second (game) because you have to win that first.”

Northwestern will be the first resume-building opportunity for Iowa. The two teams meet at 11 a.m. Thursday in the No. 8-9 matchup of the opening round of the Big Ten tournament, played in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Hawkeyes (17-12 overall, 8-8 in Big Ten) defeated the Wildcats (19-10, 8-8) in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 78-59, two weeks ago.

“I think we’re both fighting for our NCAA lives,” Northwestern Coach Joe McKeown said. “Whomever wins gets to play the No. 1 seed. You have great opportunities for both of us.”

ESPN analyst Charlie Creme lists Iowa as his first team out of the NCAA tournament, but wrote on Twitter the Hawkeyes would have a good chance of getting in with a pair of wins in Indianapolis.

But achieving those two wins will require getting them on the road, something the Hawkeyes have struggled with this year, winning just three times away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa was 7-1 at home in conference play, but its only road win was at last-place Rutgers. Six of those eight road games in conference play were against the teams that finished first through sixth.

“We do have polar opposite records home and away,” Bluder said. “But at the same time I think our schedule has been tough on the road. ... We’ve played well on the road at times.”

In their last road game, the Hawkeyes lost at Indiana, the fourth-seeded team in the tourney, in double overtime. Iowa also played competitively at No. 3 seeded Michigan and Ohio State.

Iowa never trailed in its previous win over Northwestern, the only meeting between the teams this season. Megan Gustafson led the Hawkeyes with 17 points and Ally Disterhoft added 14.

Disterhoft has scored 2,022 points in her career and is just 37 points away from passing Cindy Haugejorde as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

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