Middle Tennessee State may sound like a direction school preseason cream-puff, but the Hawkeyes know better.
“Don’t be deceived, because this is a team that is very, very good,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
The Blue Raiders (2-0) return all five starters from last season when they went 26-7, won the Sun Belt Conference and earned an NCAA at-large berth.
“This is a big test really early, right out of the gate,” Iowa senior Morgan Johnson said. “People can see how good we can really be.”
Iowa (2-0) hosts Middle Tennessee State in the semifinal round of the Preseason WNIT. Georgetown and North Carolina are the other remaining teams.
“That’s the beauty of this,” Bluder said. “You’re playing a top 25 team on your home court. We want to take full advantage of being able to host a team like this.”
The Hawkeyes will have their work cut out for them. The Blue Raiders are experienced, talented — and they have three players averaging 17.5 points per game or more.
Junior forward Ebony Rowe (21.0), senior forward Icelyn Elie (20.0) and senior guard Kortni Jones (17.5) are the type of players who traditionally give Iowa fits.
“They’re more athletic than we are,” Bluder said. “They’re extremely quick, great jumpers.”
The last athletic team that Iowa played was California in the first round the NCAA Tournament last spring, and the Golden Bears won 84-74.
“We just have to go to fundamentals,” Iowa sophomore Samantha Logic said. “Be really, really, really disciplined.
“They might be more athletic than us, but I think more disciplined teams have a great chance of winning.”
Iowa will enjoy a height advantage on the Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee State doesn’t have a starter taller than 6-foot-1.
“We need to take advantage of that on the offensive side,” Bluder said. “We really need to try to get the ball inside.”
Johnson is the only Iowa player averaging double figures after two games (17.5). She also is leading the team with 14 rebounds and has five blocked shots.
“The guards always do a good job of getting the ball inside,” Johnson said. “Looking for those in-outs is really going to be key.”
Johnson has shot 18 free throws in two games, and Iowa has 58 trips to the line total.
The top scorers for the Blue Raiders all played 40 minutes in the 82-68 win over Memphis on Sunday. And Middle Tennessee State enjoys putting on the full court press.
“I think we can break presses, it doesn’t rattle us too much,” Logic said. “Breaking them down on defense is going to be a big part of us winning.”
The WNIT Championship will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at a site to be determined. There isn’t a third-place game.
Reach Ryan Suchomel at email@example.com or 339-7368.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball