Hawkeye Women Prepare for Opener But Lose Nicole Smith to Injury

From Hawkeye Sports

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By KCRG Sports

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There was good news and bad news when University of Iowa head women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder met the media Wednesday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

First, the bad:

"We had some bad news come from the exhibition game with Nicole Smith being out for most of the year," said Bluder, in her 14th year at the helm of the program. "She suffered a meniscus tear during the game. We are looking at 10-14 weeks recovery, which is most of the year. It is a blow to our depth. She is the tallest player on our team, but most importantly, we lost a really great kid."

Smith was poised to take the next step during her sophomore campaign after improvement in the offseason. In the 92-68 exhibition victory Sunday, she registered two points and two rebounds in three minutes before leaving the contest because of injury.

"Nicole worked extremely hard, as hard as anybody, over the summer," said Bluder. "She made a drastic change in her game from last year to this year. Nicole worked hard in the weight room and improved her shot.

"What bothers me the most is seeing a kid who worked so hard in the offseason, not being rewarded for all of the hard work she put in. There was a complete change in her demeanor, her attitude, and her work ethic, and it had paid dividends. Now, she won't get to reap the benefits of that."

Sophomores Claire Till and Kali Peschel, and freshman Ally Disterhoft, will see increased minutes in the Hawkeye rotation.

Peschel and Disterhoft will stay primarily at forward, while Till will back Bethany Doolittle in the low post.

"We are having Claire Till learn a lot of the 5 position," said Bluder. "Claire is tough as nails. She is not scared to be physical and will not back down from anybody. One of the things that I have always liked about Claire is that she plays with a chip on her shoulder. You need that when you play as an undersized post. She is going to have to rely on that in this position. She will get more minutes at the 5, and it opens up more minutes for Ally (Disterhoft) at the 3 and 4."

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