Women’s hoops heads to UNI

An+Iowa+Womens+basketball+player+goes+up+for+a+shot+against+Upper+Iowa+University+Sunday+November+8th%2C+2015+at+Carver+Hawkeye+Arena.+The+game+was+an+exhibition+contest.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FKyle+Close%29

An Iowa Women’s basketball player goes up for a shot against Upper Iowa University Sunday November 8th, 2015 at Carver Hawkeye Arena. The game was an exhibition contest. (The Daily Iowan/Kyle Close)

Rod Engblom, [email protected]

The Iowa women’s basketball team will face their first instate rival of the season, tipping off against Northern Iowa on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m. in Cedar Falls.

This is the first of three instate games, which are always very competitive.

“Being from Iowa, you just recognize how big these games are,” junior Ally Disterhoft said. “So to be able to go out there and represent Iowa to hopefully get a win against UNI, that would be huge just to represent our university in a great light.”

After facing UNI, the Hawkeyes will face Iowa State on Dec. 11 and Drake University on Dec. 22.

Not only are the instate games significant for the team, because they present another benchmark before Big Ten play, they’re important to the fans and the state.

“They’re just a little bit more emotional for us,” coach Lisa Bluder said. “The fans get into them the fans come out more for those games than our other nonconference games and so they’re important, the eyes of the state are on you in those games, and you want to represent the state well, so they’re very big for us.”

Along with the significance of the rivalry, this will be the first of five away games for the Hawkeyes as they try to continue to improve.

Last season, the Hawkeyes blew out the Panthers, 73-45, but this season UNI might be more of a challenge than it was last year because Iowa is on the road.

“UNI has been a tough place to play over the past years,” Bluder said. “The crowd is really close to you; it’s early in the season.”

Northern Iowa is 2-0 after beating Rockhurst, 58-39, and South Dakota, 64-43.

Bluder believes that playing at UNI is similar to playing at Drake, which upset Iowa State on Sunday. The coach wants to make sure that the Hawkeyes do not go into the UNI game expecting an easy victory as they have had in the past.

While in-conference games are thought to be the ones that show the true face of a team, the reality is instate rivalry games aren’t much different.

“No game against the Big Ten is going to be an easy win, and no game against an instate rival is going to be an easy win,” Disterhoft said. “You go out on the court, and you throw those rankings aside, because it’s about heart and passion and who’s ready to play.”

But while the Hawks don’t expect an easy win against Northern Iowa, they are confident.

“Every year, we set goals at the beginning of the season, and one of those is to be state champs, so beat UNI, Drake, and Iowa State,” sophomore Whitney Jennings said. “So that first test starts on Sunday, so we’ll be ready for that.”

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