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IOWA CITY — It’s not complicated.
The teams that thrive in the WNIT are the teams that want to be there.
Last year, the Iowa Hawkeyes were crushed they didn’t make the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, and cashed it in. The result was a quick WNIT exit.
It’s a different year, and a different mentality.
“The girls want to keep playing,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I don’t think the seniors are ready to hang them up yet.”
With three wins in the bank, the Hawkeyes (20-13) are halfway to a WNIT title. They get their fourth straight postseason home game Sunday, when they face Washington State (15-19).
Tipoff is 2 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where Iowa has won its last eight games.
If the Hawkeyes prolong that streak and extend the season, it will mark Bluder’s 700th career win.
“I know it’s going to happen this year or next year,” Bluder said. “Whenever you reach some of these milestones, you think of the staff you’ve had, the administration that supported you, and all the kids you got to coach.
“Those are the things that are really meaningful.”
It’s very possible that the road to the WNIT championship will go through Iowa City.
The two largest crowds of the tournament have been at Carver, including an energetic gathering of 3,735 in a third-round win over Colorado on Thursday.
“Maybe it’s the drama of the postseason, but the crowds do seem louder and more engaged,” Bluder said. “They sound bigger than the numbers say they are.”
Sunday’s winner will face Alabama or Georgia Tech in the semifinal round Wednesday or Thursday. The championship game is Saturday, April 1.
Despite its sub-.500 record, Washington State has won five of its last six games.
The Cougars resemble the United Nations, with eight foreign players — two from Australia, one each from France, Macedonia, Portugal, Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria.
Bluder said that Carly Mohns will miss the remainder of the season due to a balky knee.
“It’s just not doing well, and we need to back her off,” Bluder said. “It’s not looking good. We’re going to rest her for a couple months, and hopefully look for a return after that.”
As for Christina Buttenham, who played only two minutes against Colorado, Bluder said:
“She’s at full health. But she was out for a long time (with post-concussion symptoms), and other people have gone ahead of her on the depth chart.”
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