IOWA CITY — Lisa Bluder allowed the embers to flicker for one final, glorious moment.
“At practice (Thursday morning), I just told them to close their eyes, take a deep breath and enjoy it for one last minute,” Bluder said. “Then it was over. We’re moving on.”
Iowa’s stunning fourth-quarter rally Wednesday against Iowa State is in the rearview mirror now. Another game, probably a more important game, awaits. That’s how it works.
The Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) hop back into conference action Saturday with a women’s basketball test at Michigan State (3-0, 1-0). Tipoff is 3 p.m. CT at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
Question is, how does Iowa get back up after such an emotional, energy-draining comeback? The Hawkeyes faced a 17-point deficit with nine minutes to go before storming back to edge the Cyclones, 82-80. Freshman Caitlin Clark scored 14 points in the final quarter, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24 seconds to go.
“Some people played a lot of minutes and expended a lot of energy,” Bluder said. “Now we play Michigan State, which plays different from what we’ve seen. We’re going to see a more aggressive defense, a lot of ball pressure.”
In other words, after playing (and beating) four finesse teams, the Hawkeyes are facing a physical crew Saturday.
Nia Clouden, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, is the Spartans’ top player. She averages 18.3 points per game.
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“She’s so fast,” Bluder said. “When she pulls up from 15 feet, it’s like a layup to her.”
Michigan State is holding opponents to 38-percent shooting and forcing nearly 25 turnovers per game. That will challenge an Iowa squad that is scoring at a 91.5-point clip.
Clark has climbed to second in the nation in scoring at 28.5 points per game.
Iowa does not play at Michigan this season, so this will be the final trip home for fifth-year senior Alexis Sevillian, a native of Goodrich, Mich.
Sevillian’s minutes (14.5 per game) and production (3.5 points per contest) have slid in her final season.
“I’m sure it’s frustrating for her,” Bluder said. “Taking a back seat is not an easy thing to do. But she’s staying positive, using her voice. We know how important her leadership is.”
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