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WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL | IOWA

Hawkeyes want to build on Huskers' win

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There was a different vibe Sunday when the Iowa women’s basketball team took the court at Nebraska.

Coach Lisa Bluder noticed it before the game, saw it play out during the 95-86 win and wants to see it continue when the Hawkeyes visit Purdue at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“Things felt a lot better. Things felt like Iowa basketball again,’’ Bluder said.

Bluder said her team’s swagger, energy and execution were closer to what she expected this season from a veteran team following a Sweet 16 run in the NCAA tournament a year ago.

“It was one game, but I hope it leads to two and we can begin to have that consistency we need,’’ Bluder said.

Iowa hasn’t won back-to-back games since winning its first four games of the season prior to a COVID-created pause in the Hawkeyes’ schedule.

A second pause because of virus issues elsewhere created another gap in the schedule.

Center Monika Czinano said the stop-and-go situation within the season has impacted Iowa’s ability to sustain success.

“I think the Nebraska game was big for us,’’ Czinano said. “It was a real energy boost and it just seemed like we were able to get our legs under us and play the way we’re capable of playing.’’

She said that effort and energy should now become the norm.

“We can expect that out of ourselves in other games and that will be important moving forward,’’ Czinano said.

Iowa (8-4, 2-1 Big Ten) now faces an opponent that has been on a roll, winning its last five games.

First-year coach Katie Geralds has brought more of a defensive style of play to Purdue.

The Boilermakers (11-4, 2-2) are mixing-and-matching defenses less than they did during coach Sharon Versyp’s tenure, concentrating less on zones and relying almost exclusively on man-to-man defense.

“With five straight wins, I’m sure they’re feeling good about themselves,’’ Bluder said.

The Iowa coach feels good about her team as well based on its most recent performance.

She liked the 23-point performance McKenna Warnock contributed to complement what Caitlin Clark and Czinano regularly provide the Hawkeyes.

Bluder said the development of third and fourth scoring options will be important as Iowa’s season progresses.

Mostly, she wants to see the Hawkeyes sustain consistency in their performances, building on what transpired at Nebraska.

“We haven’t had it yet. We have not had consistent play. We have not had consistent practices. We have not had consistent performances,’’ Bluder said.

Bluder views that as a necessity if Iowa hopes to achieve its goals.

“We need to get there. We need to have that consistency,’’ she said. “That is what is going to lead us to those back-to-back wins that we need and move forward from there.’’

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