IOWA CITY — The Iowa Hawkeyes are Big Ten women’s basketball championship contenders, and Lisa Bluder wants to brush aside every distraction she can.
Bluder opened her press conference Wednesday saying that Megan Gustafson’s jersey will not be retired in conjunction with any of the Hawkeyes’ remaining home games.
“I’m excited that everybody is showing so much interest in one of our players,” Bluder said in her opening statement, before any questions were asked on the subject. “I have full support that it will be done; it’s just a matter of when.”
That being said ...
“It won’t happen during the season. It’s just a distraction. It will happen when her career is over.
“The way people can get behind her is to come out and watch her play.”
Time is running out.
Four regular-season home games remain for the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes (17-5 overall, 8-3 Big Ten), including an encounter Thursday with No. 21 Michigan State (16-5, 6-4). Tipoff is 8 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
With seven Big Ten games left, Iowa stands one game behind co-leaders Maryland and Rutgers.
Michigan State opened the conference season with an 84-70 triumph over the Hawkeyes on Dec. 30 at East Lansing, ruling the second half by a 47-27 margin.
“It was a tough road game, and it was one of those games in which we beat ourselves,” junior guard Kathleen Doyle said. “We’re looking forward to redeeming ourselves.”
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Gustafson registered 30 points and 14 rebounds in that game, but MSU’s Jenna Allen more than held her own, posting 20 points and 17 boards.
That was more than a month ago, and Gustafson said, “We have grown and changed since then. They have grown and changed since then.”
Iowa has won six of its last seven games, including an 81-61 victory at Penn State on Sunday. The Hawkeyes are 11-0 at home this season.
“We enjoy being here so much, playing at home,” Bluder said. “There’s a comfort in being at Carver. We play with more joy at home.”
Michigan State has won three straight games, with a postponement against Penn State wedged in there. The Spartans broke a tie with the last eight points, all in the final 38 seconds, to beat Purdue, 74-66, Sunday.
Five Spartans are averaging in double figures, led by Allen at 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
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