March 19, 2015

(AP) - Iowa has never had a better chance to reach the Sweet 16 under coach Lisa Bluder than it does this weekend.

Despite reaching the NCAA Tournament 12 times in 15 seasons under Bluder, the Hawkeyes have never broken through with a trip to the regional semifinals. That could all end by Sunday, though.

Iowa (24-7) is seeded third and will serve as the host school - in a gym it hasn't lost in all season - for the opening two rounds of the Oklahoma City Region.

The Hawkeyes open tournament play Friday when they face American (24-8).

''This year is special for us for a number of reasons. One is, we earned the right to play at home,'' Bluder said.

Iowa earned its best seed in 19 years behind senior Samantha Logic, one of the nation's best point guards. Logic, a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick, is averaging 13.5 points, 8.0 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game. Logic has a lot of weapons to work with as guards Ally Disterhoft (team high 15.1 points per game) and Melissa Dixon (15.0 ppg, 45.1 percent on 3-pointers) team with center Bethany Doolittle (13.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) to give Iowa one of the Big Ten's most balanced attacks. Dixon leads the nation in 3-pointers made at 3.74 per contest.

This is all new to the Eagles, who earned their first NCAA Tournament bid by beating Lehigh 66-50 in the Patriot League title game.

"The biggest thing for us coming into this game was our defense and our rebounding," coach Megan Gebbia said. "I think the fact that we held Lehigh to 50 points today made a big difference because they lead the league in scoring. Our second-half effort offensively allowed us to pull away, so I'm really proud of this group and how they were ready to go in the second half."

American is allowing 57.2 points per game and has given up 47.9 in its last seven contests.

American also set a school record with 24 wins. The Eagles have a pair of quality post players in forwards Michelle Holmes (11.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Arron Zimmerman (10.0 ppg). But it's guard Jen Dumiak who runs the offense. She's averaging 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists and scored 24 in the Patriot-clinching win over Lehigh.

Iowa is 11-6 against teams that reached the NCAA Tournament, including three wins over Nebraska.

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