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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Lisa Bluder wouldn’t — and probably couldn’t — give a number of University of Iowa women’s basketball players who were impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak that caused the cancellation of three games.
But it was substantial.
“I’m not going to go into that, but there was a lot of staff, a lot of players affected,” Bluder said during Wednesday’s press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It was a feeling of helplessness. You can’t do anything about it. This was one thing you don’t have any control over.”
The Hawkeyes, 4-0 and ranked No. 9 in this week’s Associated Press poll, return to action Thursday with a trip to Duke (6-0) as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Tipoff is 8 p.m. in a game to be televised nationally by ESPN.
It will be the Hawkeyes’ first game in two weeks; they defeated Southern University on Nov. 17.
Two days later, the university issued a release that the Hawkeyes’ Nov. 21 home date with Drake was canceled, as was their trip to the Cancun Challenge (they were scheduled to face Seton Hall and USC Nov. 25-26).
“There were so many good games last week, so many top-10 matchups,” Caitlin Clark said. “It was definitely hard watching, knowing there’s really nothing you can do about it.”
Bluder confirmed that the Iowa roster will be complete for the trip to the iconic Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
It is a place Clark has seen many times on television.
“I grew up a huge North Carolina fan because of Harrison Barnes. So I watched the (UNC-Duke games) religiously. I never thought I’d get to play in a place like Cameron,” she said.
Monika Czinano played several AAU tournaments at nearby Raleigh.
“We’d go over to Durham. It’s so surreal,” she said. “Now, to go there and play, it’s fun to see how life unfolds.”
It’s the first leg of pivotal three-game swing; the Hawkeyes face their Big Ten opener Sunday against Michigan State, then play at Iowa State next Wednesday.
“This was always going to be a tough stretch for us,” Bluder said. “It’s a really important, grueling stretch.”
In a fact that slid to the back burner upon the Hawkeyes’ pause, Bluder is bidding to become the 14th Division-I women’s basketball coach to reach the 800-victory plateau. She is 799-376 in 37 seasons, including 443-234 in 21 years at Iowa.
“Honestly, when I signed with Iowa (in 2000), I got a five-year contract,” Bluder said when the Hawkeyes beat Southern for her 799th win. “At the time, it was like, ‘Oh, I get five years.’ That seemed like an eternity.
“This is one of those times I step back. I’m so thankful for the people I’ve been able to be around. Jan Jensen and Jenni Fitzgerald have been around for so many of those victories.”
Big Ten/ACC Women’s Basketball Challenge
Rutgers at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m.
Nebraska at Wake Forest, 6 p.m.
Georgia Tech at Purdue, 6 p.m.
Virginia Tech at Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m.
No. 18 Ohio State at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
North Carolina at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Penn State at Boston College, 5 p.m.
No. 24 Notre Dame at Michigan State, 5 p.m.
No. 12 Michigan at No. 10 Louisville, 6 p.m.
No. 2 North Carolina State at No. 6 Indiana, 6 p.m.
Northwestern at Clemson, 7 p.m.
Miami at No. 8 Maryland, 7 p.m.
No. 25 Florida State at Illinois, 7 p.m.
No. 9 Iowa at Duke, 8 p.m.