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Hawkeyes, Orange riding hot streaks

[ 0 ] December 4, 2013 |

Facing ranked opponents isn’t anything new for the Iowa women’s basketball team.

Neither is beating them.

The Hawkeyes latest matchup with a top-25 foe comes with a little different feel.

It will be a battle of ranked teams when No. 25 Iowa (8-1) faces No. 22 Syracuse (8-0) Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Iowa moved into the top-25 for the first time this season Monday following three wins at the Cancun Challenge last week.

The Hawkeyes are 1-1 against ranked foes this season defeating Dayton at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and falling at No. 11 Colorado.

Both of those games came when the Hawkeyes were outside the top-25.

“It’s always a nice pat on the back for a hard job well done, and that’s how we look at it,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of the top-25 ranking. “We congratulated the team and then it’s like OK we are on to the next opponent because guess what they ranked a little higher than we are. It’s kind of a short-lived thing, but we take pride in it.”

Like Iowa, Syracuse is coming off an impressive showing at a tournament outside of the country.

Syracuse went 3-0 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands defeating Texas, Memphis and No. 12 Texas A&M.

The final game for the Orange in the Virgin Islands was the emphatic 78-63 win over Texas A&M.

“They are a good team,” junior guard Samantha Logic said. “They beat Texas A&M, ranked number 12 in the country, so they are going to come ready to play.”

Although Iowa has spread the wealth offensively this season, Syracuse has relied heavily on a pair of dynamic sophomores guards.

Brittney Sykes and Brianna Butler combine to average more than 36 points per game helping Syracuse average 86 points per game as a team.

The 5-9 Sykes leads Syracuse with 19.1 points per game while Butler averages 17.1.

“They are ranked 22nd in the country, but I think they could be much higher than that,” Bluder said. “This is a team that was in the NCAA tournament last year and they were young. Their sophomores were all-Americans coming out of high school, and they are playing like it right now.”

As good as Syracuse has been offensively this season, it is the Orange’s play on the defensive end of the court that concerns Bluder.

Opponents are averaging just 58 points per game on 32 percent shooting from the field against Syracuse this season.

Syracuse has used a variety of different presses and zone defenses to force opponents into 185 turnovers this season an average of 23 a game.

The Orange is scoring an average of 28.5 points per game off turnovers.

“They are a very good defensive team, and they get a lot of their offense from their defense,” Bluder said. “They are forcing 75 turnovers more than their opponents, and a lot of those end up being high percentage shots because they are out of their press or out of the top of their zone.”

Iowa has been good this season in the turnover department, averaging 14.9 per game.

Through nine games, Iowa has a turnover margin of +3.7 but hasn’t faced a team that employs pressure like Syracuse.

“It’s just a little different dynamic than what we have played so far, pressing the entire game,” Logic said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, but we are definitely ready to take it on.”

Reach Ryan Murken at 339-7369 or rmurken@press-citizen.com.

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