WBB: Hawkeyes Kick Off Big Ten Tournament With Northwestern

By Jeff Linder, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Hey, don't you look familiar?

For the second time in less than 96 hours, the Iowa Hawkeyes tangle with Northwestern in a women's basketball game. This time, it's in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Tipoff is 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

"Here we are again," Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. "Obviously, we know this opponent."

The Hawkeyes (19-11) defeated Northwestern (13-16), 62-45, in the regular-season finale Sunday at Evanston to salvage a season split.

"We were able to push the ball well, get out in transition and get some quick looks," said sophomore guard Samantha Logic. "Hopefully, we're able to do that again."

Iowa has righted its ship somewhat after suffering a five-game losing streak in the middle of the Big Ten season. The Hawkeyes have won three of their last four games.

"You look at our schedule, and we had one bad week -- when we lost to Northwestern and Minnesota -- and a lot of the rest of it, we were playing some tough opponents," Bluder said.

Bluder thinks the Hawkeyes have earned an NCAA Tournament berth, regardless of what happens through the remainder of the week.

"If I'm on the selection committe, I look at our RPI (37) and our quality wins, and I think we're in," she said. "But I don't want to leave a whole lot to chance."

That's enough to leave the Hawkeyes' focus solely on Round 1. On the other hand, they would cherish another shot at No. 2 seed Nebraska in the quarterfinals Friday.

Iowa is 0-5 against the Cornhuskers since they entered the Big Ten last year.

"We've never beaten them, and that's unsettling with me," said senior post Morgan Johnson. "But it's one game at a time. Northwestern first."

To win the tournament, Iowa would have to win four games in four days. That's a tall order anyway, but this has become a team reliant on six players -- starters Johnson, Jaime Printy, Samantha Logic, Theairra Taylor and Bethany Doolittle, plus Dixon off the bench.

Nobody else has averaged as much as 6 minutes per game since league play began.

"Would you rather have a deeper bench? Absolutely in this situation. But that's not something we can change at this point," Bluder said.

"I think we're playing the people that play well together, that are contributing, that are giving us the best opportunity to win at this point."

BIG TEN TOURNAMENT, FIRST ROUND: IOWA (19-11) vs. NORTHWESTERN (13-16)

Where: Sears Centre, Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Tipoff: 11:30 a.m. Thursday

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: KXIC-AM (800), KMJM-AM (1360)

Notable: The teams are meeting for the second time in four days; Iowa concluded its regular seaon with a 62-45 win Sunday at Evanston, Ill. Northwestern captured a 67-65 win at Iowa City on Feb. 3. The Hawkeyes are the No. 7 seed while NU is seeded 10th. The winner faces No. 2 seed Nebraska in the quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Morgan Johnson leads the Hawkeyes at 14.9 points per game while Melissa Dixon was the leading scorer in Big Ten play at 12.3 ppg in league play. Dixon was named the Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year. Kendall Hackney paces Northwestern at 13.8 points per game, followed by Maggie Lyon (12.8 ppg), the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

BIG TEN TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

(At Hoffman Estates, Ill.)

Thursday's First Round

No. 7 Iowa (19-11) vs. No. 10 Northwestern (13-16), 11:30 a.m.

No. 6 Illinois (16-12) vs. No. 11 Wisconsin (11-18), 2 p.m.

No. 8 Minnesota (18-12) vs. No. 9 Ohio State (17-12), 6 p.m.

No. 5 Michigan (20-9) vs. No. 12 Indiana (11-18), 8:30 p.m.

Friday's Quarterfinals

No. 2 Nebraska (22-7) vs. Iowa/Northwestern winner, 11:30 a.m.

No. 3 Purdue (21-8) vs. Illinois/Wisconsin winner, 2 p.m.

No. 1 Penn State (24-4) vs. Minnesota/Ohio State winner, 6 p.m.

No. 4 Michigan State (22-7) vs. Michigan/Indiana winner, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday's Semifinals

Top bracket, 4 p.m.

Bottom bracket, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday's Championship

Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.
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