Iowa women's hoops hopes early season tests turn into late-season success

Iowa women's hoops hopes early season tests turn into late-season success
Iowa women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder has been vocal about the need for tougher out-of-conference scheduling for Big Ten teams. So, it's no surprise is embracing the early grind of their schedule.
The Hawkeyes beat a pair of 2017 NCAA Tournament teams to take the Hawkeye Challenge title over the weekend and now face a Northern Illinois team which made the WNIT last season. Head coach Lisa Bluder sees the early schedule as a chance to prepare for March.
"I think it will pay dividends later," Bluder said. "It gives the team confidence knowing that we can be down and still pull out this victory; let's stay poised, let's stay confident throughout the whole thing. Which, for a still pretty young team, is impressive, especially this time of year."
Iowa will play five more 2017 NCAA Tournament qualifiers before getting into the conference schedule. Junior center Megan Gustafson welcomes the early challenge.
"Having two really great teams right off the bat, I think, is great," Gustafson said. "A lot of teams will schedule these weaker teams and build that fake confidence. Coach Bluder has talked about how she doesn't want to do that and I really respect that. Being able to play some really tough teams (allows us to) not only gain some real confidence but to be able to learn from our mistakes."
Gustafson on Monday was also awarded the Big Ten's first player of the week award. The junior scored 51 points and grabbed 32 rebounds in the team's wins over Quinnipiac and Western Kentucky. This is the seventh time in her career she has been named the conference's player of the week.
Tipoff against Northern Illinois on Wednesday is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game is being streamed on BTN-Plus.
The Hawkeyes will most likely be without sophomore guard Kathleen Doyle, who suffered a high ankle sprain on Saturday. Bluder on Monday called her “very, very questionable” for Wednesday’s game.
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