Iowa women’s basketball looks to improve on its already-stellar defensive production

In 2017-18, head coach Lisa Bluder coached one of the top defenses in both the Big Ten and the country. With that success as a guide, Hawkeye women’s basketball will try to continue the stellar play.

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Iowa women’s basketball looks to improve on its already-stellar defensive production

Iowa guard Zion Sanders #24 closes down on an opposing player during a women's basketball game against Oral Roberts University on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Eagles 90-77. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa guard Zion Sanders #24 closes down on an opposing player during a women's basketball game against Oral Roberts University on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Eagles 90-77. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas

Iowa guard Zion Sanders #24 closes down on an opposing player during a women's basketball game against Oral Roberts University on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Eagles 90-77. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas

David Harmantas

Iowa guard Zion Sanders #24 closes down on an opposing player during a women's basketball game against Oral Roberts University on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Eagles 90-77. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Mills, Sports Reporter

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The Iowa women’s basketball defense was notably strong in the team’s season-opener against Oral Roberts on Nov. 9 in Carver-Hawkeye. This is no surprise, because the defense was commanding in 2017, but the Hawkeyes are still trying to build on that.

With the season-opener at home, the Iowa team was excited about showing the improvement since last season.

“It felt great to wear this uniform and be back out there in front of the fans,” senior Tania Davis said.

Statistically, it will be a tall task for the team to do better defensively than it did last season, but it feels obligated to improve.

Defensive production was off the charts last season, with head coach Lisa Bluder’s team able to disrupt offenses in a variety of ways.

As a whole, the team gave offenses a very difficult time in gaining second-chance shots. This was, in part, because of the Hawkeyes’ conference-leading 31.3 defensive rebounds per game. Megan Gustafson was a big part of this — she led the Big Ten in defensive rebounds per game with 9.

Likewise, shot blocking was excellent for Iowa in 2017. The team came in at second in the conference in blocks per game at 5.2. Again, Gustafson was a big part of this, leading the conference averaging 2.1 blocks per contest.

With the team’s performance against Oral Roberts, there is no reason to think any of this will be any different. Especially in the first half, the fire on the defensive side of the ball was pervasive.

The Iowa defense grabbed an astounding 49 rebounds in the matchup, with the Oral Roberts offensive only able to take 29. This played a big part in keeping point totals low for the Golden Eagles — they were only able to post 2 second-chance points in the first half.

Along with this, the blocking differential was still solid on the Iowa side.

The team was out-blocked Oral Roberts, 5-1. Of course, Gustafson was a leader for the Hawkeyes with 3.

Contributions from senior Hannah Stweart and freshman Monika Czinano added to the total, proving that the defense is solid. Fans will see players, even off the Hawkeye bench, have a large effect on defense.

Statistics do not always tell the complete story, however. The physicality shown by the Hawkeyes is the same in a lot of ways this season, and it gives the team a lot to work with.

The seniors are keen on making this talent and physicality count in their final season.

“Senior year is a different feeling, knowing this is your last shot,” Stewart said.

The competition from Oral Roberts is not comparable with what the team will experience for much of the season. However, if Iowa can stay true to its physicality and defensive prowess, success will not come as a surprise.

True to form, Bluder was focused on what the Hawkeyes will look to improve upon.

“There were some times where we were soft on shooters,” she said. “[There was] some miscommunication, and they got some open shots. We’re going to face those kinds of shooters, and it will be a great opportunity for us to learn.”

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