Rebounding. It’s kind of a big deal.
And Iowa coach Lisa Bluder is doing her best to get that point across to her team as the Hawkeyes (13-4, 2-1) prepare for a road trip to Michigan State (14-2, 2-1) on Thursday.
The Spartans have a plus-10.5 rebounding margin overall, and it inflates to plus-14.7 in conference games.
“Playing on the road in the Big Ten is always hard,” senior Jaime Printy said. “And they are very aggressive on the boards. Coach said they are plus-15 in Big Ten play. That’s huge.”
So during the past week, Bluder has been pushing her team in practice. The loser in rebounding drills has to run.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” senior Morgan Johnson said. “We make it into a competition. If you lose, you’re running. So that way, you’re going at each other pretty hard. You’re dishing it out and taking it all at the same time.
The top rebounder in every game also gets the basketball equivalent of football helmet stickers that Hawkeye players put up in their lockers. Sophomore guard Sam Logic (6.4 rebounds per game) was verbally sparring with senior post Morgan Johnson (7.5 rpg) on Tuesday about who would get the sticker in East Lansing, Mich.
“Me and Sam kind of go back and forth with it,” Johnson said. “I have more stickers than her so far this year, I’d like to say.”
Johnson has led Iowa in rebounding seven times this season. Logic and sophomore forward Bethany Doolittle each have led four times.
“In practice, we work on a lot of rebounding drills,” Doolittle said. “Get used to the physicality of the other teams.”
A year ago, Johnson only led Iowa in rebounding in 11 games in a 31-game season (Logic led in 14 games). The 6-foot-6 post challenged herself to get more stickers this year.
“I think I’m being more aggressive on the boards,” Johnson said.
Courtney Schiffauer leads the Spartans with 7.2 rebounds per game and Klarissa Bell with 6.7 rebounds per game. In addition, four other players average 4.5 rebounds per game or better for MSU.
“We have to be disciplined to take that advantage away from them in this game and I think really do a great job on the boards,” Bluder said. “I think that’s going to be a key to this game.”
Despite being hit with some injuries, the Spartans have scoring balance, led by Bell (12.3 ppg).
The game will be a homecoming for Iowa sophomore Kathy Thomas, who may be on the court against friend and Flint Hamady High School teammate Jasmine Thomas.
“It’ll be fun paying against Jasmine,” Kathy Thomas said. “We’re super close and call each other sisters. Of course, it’s going to be tough. On the court, I’ll act like I don’t know her and play with a chip on my shoulder.
“I’m pretty sure after the game we’ll talk to each other, give each other hugs. Act like sisters.”
Kathy Thomas expects to have a big crowd of family and friends in the Breslin Center.
Bluder said it’ll be OK if Thomas guards Thomas on Thursday.
“Kathy will be so anxious to get in this game that she will — it won’t matter who we put her on,” Bluder said. “I think she is going to give us full effort. I mean, if we ask her to get a drink of water, she’ll probably sprint to the end of the bench to grab that drink of water.
“She’s going to be so geeked about being at home and so excited. And that’s her personality, too. Some kids, it’s not as big a deal to go home. Kathy is very emotional, in a good way, and I think she’s going to bring that emotion to this game.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball