As Lisa Bluder nears a milestone in a coaching career which began at St. Ambrose, the Iowa women’s basketball coach just wants the fun to continue.
“I see a lot of excitement and energy in our team. The girls want to keep playing,’’ Bluder said. “I don’t think our seniors are ready to hang them up yet.’’
With three postseason victories the Hawkeyes are halfway to a championship in the 64-team WNIT.
Iowa (20-13) can move one step closer today, hosting Washington State (15-19) in a 2 p.m. game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
With a victory, Bluder will become one of 10 active NCAA Division I women’s basketball coaches to win 700 career games.
“I know it’s going to happen this year or next year,’’ Bluder said. “Whenever you reach one of those milestones, you think of the staff you’ve had, the administrations that supported you and all the kids you got to coach. Those are the things that are really meaningful.’’
Bluder’s career started in the 1984-85 season at St. Ambrose, where she won her first game as a coach 88-77 against Clarke.
She has spent the past 17 seasons of a 33-year career at Iowa, collecting 343 of her 699 career wins and reaching the 20-win mark for the 10th time in a third-round WNIT win over Colorado on Thursday.
“We’re playing free and easy right now, having fun and playing with a lot of confidence,’’ Bluder said. “There’s no pressure on us. We’re just having fun playing basketball and that approach won’t change.’’
With three freshmen and a sophomore in the lineup, the Hawkeyes are also gaining valuable experience for the future.
“The extra games we are getting right now are only going to help us down the road,’’ Bluder said. “Just being a part of a postseason experience with such a young team and getting an idea of what this is all like is going to be beneficial for us.’’
Despite the sub-.500 overall record, Washington State enters today’s game having won five of its last six games but has wins over three NCAA tourney teams and a 10-point loss to Maryland on its resume.
The Cougars have playeRS from eight countries on their roster, including two Australian players and one each from Bulgaria, France, Greece, Macedonia, Portugal and Serbia.
“They went 2-1 against Colorado and are another Pac-12 team, which was the top-ranked conference this year,’’ Bluder said. “They’ll be another good test for us.’’
The Hawkeyes have won their last eight home games and senior Alexa Kastanek said the Hawkeyes would like to add a milestone win for their coach to that collection of victories.
“It’s special knowing that we have a chance to add to a legacy that’s known for excellence,’’ Kastanek said. “It’s been a tremendous experience and we’re grateful for the chance to continue to add to it.’’
Today’s winner will play the winner of a quarterfinal game between Alabama or Georgia Tech, most likely on Wednesday or Thursday, in the tourney that is played entirely on campus sites of participating schools.