116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The Iowa Hawkeyes’ return to action certainly wasn’t a return to form.
“Certainly, this was not an Iowa performance I’m proud of,” Coach Lisa Bluder said after Thursday’s 79-64 women’s basketball loss to Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“We need to regroup quickly.”
Ninth-ranked Iowa (4-1) welcomes Michigan State (6-3) in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Tipoff is 3 p.m. Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (TV: BTN).
Thursday, frankly, was a mess for the Hawkeyes. But it was just one game, and given the circumstances, the performance probably was predictable.
Iowa’s previous game was Nov. 17. Two days later, the university announced that the next three contests would be canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the program.
Going on just a couple of days of practice, the Hawkeyes weren’t the same team that had breezed to four easy wins before the pause.
“We didn’t play to our capability,” Bluder said. “A lot of that was because of Duke. Our 3-point shooting was low. Our (15) assists were low.
“Our timing was definitely off. We were out of sorts. Our ability to run our offense was not there.”
Bluder was asked about her team’s conditioning.
“You could tell we were a little tired out there,” she said. “With two days of preparation (before Michigan State), maybe Friday will be more of a mental practice and Saturday will be more of a physical practice.”
Like the Hawkeyes (and numerous others), Michigan State was a Big Ten casualty against the ACC, dropping a 76-71 home decision to Notre Dame.
The Big Ten went 4-10.
Nia Clouden leads Michigan State at 19.6 points per game.
The Spartans are 1-2 on the road, with losses to Fordham and St. Francis Brooklyn. This is a game the Hawkeyes need if they want to contend in the Big Ten.
“We’ve got to win those home-court games,” Bluder said.
Bluder will get her second shot at career win No. 800. She is 799-477 overall, 443-235 at Iowa.
After Sunday, the Hawkeyes play three more non-conference games (starting at Iowa State on Wednesday), then return to Big Ten action for good Dec. 30 at Penn State.