A national ranking was there for the taking this weekend when the Iowa women’s basketball team hosted Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes had won seven straight games and knocked off four nationally ranked foes this season. One more win would have likely propelled them into the top 25.
Instead, Michigan came into Iowa City and ended the win streak with a big 68-64 road win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We'd much rather play in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and we didn't take advantage of that with Michigan,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “So now we've got to pick up a few extra road wins along the way to make up for that mishap against Michigan.”
Even with the loss, the Hawkeyes still have an RPI of 20 and their strength of schedule is No. 13. The ranking will be there eventually and a sixth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament is likely.
For now, Iowa will focus on the task at hand – playing rival Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
“Obviously, important game for us coming off of our first Big Ten loss, we need to bounce back and have a really good performance at Wisconsin,” said Bluder, whose Hawkeyes are 7-0 when scoring at least 70 points this year. “The last time we lost a game we reeled seven off in a row, so I know that our team can bounce back. I know that we're capable of bouncing back.”
The Hawkeyes come into the game at 12-4 overall and 1-1 in league play, while Wisconsin is 8-7 and 0-2. Iowa has won 10 straight games in the series dating back to 2006-07 and won four straight and eight of nine in Madison. The Hawkeyes also lead the all-time series 40-20.
Iowa is led by seniors Morgan Johnson and Jaime Printy and sophomore Samantha Logic. Johnson averages a team-best 17.4 points, 2.1 blocks per game and 7.3 boards per contest. Printy averages 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
Logic has come on strong of late. She leads the Big Ten in assists at 7.1, while also scoring nearly 10 points and pulling down 6.2 boards per contest.
Each team has a player from the other team’s state on its roster. Logic was a McDonald’s All-American at Racine High School in Racine, Wis., while Morgan Paige attended Linn-Mar High School in Marion, which is the same high school Printy attended.
Paige leads the Badgers, who are coming off a league home loss to Minnesota, with a 16.5 points per game average. Jacki Gulzynksi scores 11 points per game and Cassie Rachel grabs eight boards per contest.
“(She) loves shooting the ball and she is a good shooter, a productive shooter,” Bluder said of Paige. “As she goes, a lot of times Wisconsin goes.”
“And (Gulzynski) is a hard match up for us because she's a power forward that plays like an off guard. So that's a little bit of a tricky match up for us there.”
The last time Iowa played Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes came away with an 85-79 win at the Kohl Center. Johnson had 27 points and 11 rebounds in that win, while Logic finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists on her way to Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
“I think of the Wisconsin game last year, and in my opinion, that was kind of her breakout game,” Bluder said. “That's when she really took off. But I think Sam has played pretty consistently since that point except maybe some turnover issues at the beginning of the year.”
That also was the game in which Printy suffered her season-ending ACL injury.
“I've talked with her about going there again, and we all know we're smart individuals,” Bluder said. “We know it wasn't the place that caused the issue, but obviously I want to get into her mind a little bit and find out if she's worried about that.
“So we're trying to talk through it and make sure that she's not nervous going into play there. Because again, it wasn't the place that caused the injury, and we have to keep reminding ourselves of that.”
Thursday’s game against the Badgers will be televised on the Big Ten Network.