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IOWA CITY — The Iowa Hawkeyes are in the same postseason women’s basketball tournament as last year, but with a different mindset.
“Last year, we were so disappointed, we just flopped in the WNIT,” Coach Lisa Bluder said.
“This year, we’ve embraced it. It could be a lot of fun.”
The Hawkeyes (17-13) host Missouri State (16-14) in a WNIT first-rounder Thursday. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It’s not the tournament the Hawkeyes were hoping for. But it’s postseason basketball, and they want to make it an extended stay.
“I think we can make a really good run,” sophomore post Megan Gustafson said.
The Hawkeyes were devastated after the NCAA announcement last year, and were listless in a first-round WNIT home loss to Ball State as a result.
On Monday, “it still hurt not to see our name called” on the NCAA selection show, Ally Disterhoft said. “But it’s a great opportunity to play at Carver, hopefully a few more times.”
Based on its attendance, Iowa probably will play several rounds at home, as long as it keeps winning.
“A deep run would be huge for the younger girls,” Disterhoft said.
The WNIT is a 64-team event, so — like the NCAA — the champion must climb six rungs to attain the title. The Iowa-Missouri State winner will face North Dakota or defending champion South Dakota in Round 2 at a site and date to be determined after Thursday’s games.
Other than advancement, the Hawkeyes’ most gripping storyline is Disterhoft’s pursuit of the career scoring record. She has 2,040 points and needs 20 more to surpass Cindy Haugejorde (1976-80).
“It’s definitely out there. It’s attainable,” Disterhoft said. “It’s been in the back of my mind. But if the team has success, the individual success will take care of itself.”
Bluder said, “Ally’s on the brink of a record that has stood since, what, the ‘70s? We want to make sure she gets it.”
Four more victories would get Bluder to the 700-win plateau.
Missouri State finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference, behind NCAA qualifiers Drake and UNI. The Bears started the season 4-9, then won 12 of 14 before losing their final three.
Liza Freund leads the Bears at 16.9 points per game.
Former Iowa City Regina girls’ basketball coach Matt Bolger is the Missouri State women’s basketball director of operations.
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