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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa Hawkeyes have settled into the role of a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten women's basketball team.
They have beaten the teams below them in the league race, fallen short against the teams above them.
'(Four) of our losses are to top-25 teams, and one to Michigan State,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. 'That's over. You never get them back.
'We've proven we can play top-25 teams. We've got to go one more step and get them.”
Another opportunity awaits.
Iowa (10-5, 6-5 Big Ten) welcomes 17th-ranked Indiana (10-4, 8-2) to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday. Tipoff is 1 p.m. (ESPN2).
The Hawkeyes have somewhere between seven and nine regular-season games remaining, depending on whether they are able to make up road games against Maryland (likely) and Rutgers (probably not).
According to ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme, the Hawkeyes are - for now - securely in the NCAA field as a No. 8 seed. And that pretty much matches their NCAA NET ranking (which has replaced the RPI) of 30.
The resume is pretty vanilla. No huge statement wins (Iowa State, at home, is the best), but no truly damaging losses, either (Michigan State, on the road, is the worst).
Four games against top-25 teams remain - two against Indiana, one at home against Michigan and one (probably) at Maryland.
'(These games) are really important,” Bluder said. 'Not just for the NCAA, but also for the seed we would get in the NCAA. That's important.”
Iowa is coming off a 92-87 loss at No. 11 Ohio State on Thursday. The Hawkeyes certainly weren't bad, but made a few too many mistakes and didn't play enough defense to win.
Caitlin Clark posted 30 points and nine assists, but also committed seven turnovers.
'One thing I need to work on is the turnovers,” Clark said earlier this week. 'I'm averaging nearly five per game, and honestly, that's horrible. A lot of them are forced issues.
'Then, if you're called for a charge, it's a foul and a turnover. You're hit with a double whammy there.”
The heavy favorite for Big Ten freshman-of-the-year honor - and one of the top contenders for player of the year - Clark said that her transition from high school ball has been smooth, but that 'defense is a work in progress for me.
'When I'm active and dialed in, I can be a good defender,” she said. 'Sometimes I relax and store energy for the offensive end.”
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