Lisa Bluder on the win over LSU

On3 imageby:Tom Kakert04/02/24


There was no one that could wipe the smile off the face of Lisa Bluder as she sat at the podium in Albany answers questions following the Hawkeyes win over LSU that locked up a trip to the Final Four later this week in Cleveland.

Bluder discusses the win and the incredible performance from star guard Caitlin Clark on Monday evening.

LISA BLUDER: I’m just extremely grateful for this group of young women we have. They’re amazing. Everybody kept saying at the beginning of the year, Iowa lost so much, they lost all this offense and two starters and everybody kept focusing on that, and we kept focusing on what we had.

Even when we had an injury with Molly Davis going out of the lineup, Syd just came in there seamlessly. I’m really just proud of this group. They kept the focus all the time on us, and I’m really — I couldn’t be more happy for such a great group of young women than this.

Q. Lisa, if you would, describe what your defensive strategy was coming into this game and how the players executed it.

LISA BLUDER: Actually, we thought we would be playing a whole lot more zone than we did. We started out in zone, and it was good for the first couple of minutes. They had to call a time-out. Then we tried trapping in our zone, and that really wasn’t working. After that, we went to our player to player defense.

I was so impressed with how hard our players worked in there, especially in the paint. They’re a hard group to defend in the paint when you have both Angel and Morrow in there. It’s a lot to guard in the paint.

Q. The third quarter you guys were able to pull away. What defensive adjustments were made at halftime that we saw in the third quarter?

LISA BLUDER: There wasn’t a lot of adjustments we made. We just talked about we needed to box out, and we didn’t really do that, as you can tell here.

But it’s ironic they had 23 rebounds and only 14 second-chance points. That’s a really low number for 23. But a lot of it was just kind of like bouncing it off the backboard a couple times to yourself almost.

But I think when we came out, the game is tied, we come out, Caitlin hits that deep three, and it gave us a lot of momentum. Then we get a stop and another score and all of a sudden they have to call time-out after two minutes again.

I think we started the game and we started the third quarter with a punch, and that really helped us a lot, gave us a lot of confidence on the defensive end.

Q. I asked the other day if there were any wow moments left for Caitlin, and then she drops 41. Can you put in perspective what she did for you guys tonight to get you back to the Final Four?

LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I mean, Caitlin, I feel like I’ve talked about her, like used every word imaginable to describe her. But I thought what she said today about her maturity has just grown so much over four years, I really saw that tonight.

Really, it could have been a highly emotional game. It could have been a lot of talking going on out there. Just from what happened at the end of last year. Honestly, she put it aside. She put everything aside.

I think her maturity, just her communication with her teammates was really good tonight. She was in the huddle really building others up, which I love when she does that because it means so much coming from her rather than me.

But her distance shots were amazing tonight. Her logo threes were incredible. How do you defend that, right? It is nearly impossible.

That obviously gave us some great momentum.

Q. On Caitlin, she mentioned ball screens, ball screens, ball screens being a critical part of this, and you talked about we’re going to find ways of getting her to the basket which is not a thing against LSU, but she did right away here tonight. How much of that is a schematic change and how much is just her maturing and getting that much better at getting to the rim?

LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I was really happy in the first quarter she got to the rim quite a bit and got off ball screens. We encouraged her to do that because we didn’t want her to start out with the logo threes. We thought she could get to the rim, and we wanted the higher percentage shots to begin with. I was pretty happy that she did that.

Then I’m telling third quarter, though, she came out with a different look in her eye. I could tell her all I wanted to at that time to get to the rim, and it wasn’t going to happen.

Q. Between this game, the West Virginia game a couple rounds ago, your team has had to really be incredibly physical and play sort of above your height, especially in the paint defense. Has that been for you a big learning point and growth from last year?

LISA BLUDER: You know, we’ve had to play that way all year. Addie O’Grady went in and played some good minutes tonight for us. She had 15 minutes, I think. She did a nice job in there when Hannah got into some foul trouble. But we’ve been undersized all year, and it’s just the way it is. You can’t do anything about it, so don’t gripe about it.

Just go out there and play and use what you do have. Do you have speed? Do you have agility? Do you have hops? Use those things instead of focusing on I wish I was four inches taller.

Q. You mentioned throwing punches. They threw punches back. It was such a high-level game and it was so frenetic in the first quarter in particular. What is that like to experience, to be part of as the game is unfolding and obviously to come out victorious? What does it feel like to be in a game like that?

LISA BLUDER: Yeah, we always tell our players, basketball is usually a game of momentum swings. You’ve got to make yours ride as long as you can and hang on during theirs. They had a really good momentum swing there in the second quarter. They had a really nice momentum swing.

I was just happy — I thought we were going to go up two to go into the locker room, and I was thrilled with that. But then we ended up being tied, and we just went in there and said, hey, we’ve got 20 more minutes.

They were very locked in at halftime. There was a lot of belief in that locker room. There really was.

Q. How important was it not to focus on what happened last year and just keep the focus on this year and winning the game, getting to the Final Four again?

LISA BLUDER: I can tell you, we didn’t talk about last year’s game at all. We did not talk about it at all. It just wasn’t important to us. That was last year, different teams, different scenario. We just kept focusing on this time we get to play. We get to play today. We focused on ourselves.

I know it sounds elementary and it’s what they said, but it’s truly what we really believed. We were just focusing on ourselves and not focusing on LSU going into this game.

Q. Kate said it’s not really a rivalry but obviously you’ve had these two huge games. How good is this back-and-forth between LSU and Iowa?

LISA BLUDER: Well, we talked about that last night, and I told the team, this is not a rivalry. This is a competition. It’s a competition against an opponent. It is not a rivalry. I just don’t feel like we’ve played them that many times that you consider it a rivalry.

But I mean, I think people were highly interested in this game, and so I think people were excited to see this play, to see this matchup again, so I think that was there, the excitement around the game. But it certainly wasn’t one that we feel like is a rivalry. It was just going out to compete.

Q. To bring it back to Gabbie Marshall, from the coaching perspective, it’s different when you’re a teammate to have somebody who’s that consistent, but for you as a coach, what does it mean to have somebody who can put 40 minutes on the floor so consistently like she does and with her energy?

LISA BLUDER: I’m so glad that you noticed her because I think she doesn’t get enough credit for how hard she plays. First of all, she is a sniper. She shoots one out of three tonight, it’s 50 percent adjusted, but she has two steals, she has a blocked shot. She’s the shortest person out there, and she has a blocked shot. She consistently guards the toughest person. She consistently gives it all she has defensively, whether it’s getting out and denying or understanding to get her hands up, something as simple as that. She is a great defensive player, and I’m so proud of her effort, and I’m glad that you recognized that, as well, so thank you.

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