Schedule tightens up for Iowa women’s basketball

Iowa women’s basketball has a lot of action coming up over winter break.

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Schedule tightens up for Iowa women’s basketball

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson (10) fights for an offensive rebound during a women's basketball game against Oral Roberts University on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Eagles 90-77.

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson (10) fights for an offensive rebound 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

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson (10) fights for an offensive rebound 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

David Harmantas

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson (10) fights for an offensive rebound during a women's basketball game against Oral Roberts University on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Eagles 90-77.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

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After a week off for finals, the Iowa women’s basketball team is gearing up for a six games over winter break.

The Hawkeyes enter the stretch riding a three-game winning streak and a 7-2 record. The games will start with Iowa finishing out its nonconference slate with two in-state opponents — Northern Iowa on Dec. 16 and Drake Dec. 21.

RELATED: By the numbers: Hawkeye women’s basketball

Then, the Hawkeyes will kick off their Big Ten schedule with a game in East Lansing to take on the Michigan State. After that, they will come back to Carver-Hawkeye for games against Nebraska and Wisconsin, and they will end with a game in West Lafayette against Purdue.

Let’s take a look at the upcoming stretch:

Northern Iowa

This year will mark the 17th-straight season the two teams have met. Almost all of those matchups have been dominated by Iowa.

The Hawkeyes have won 11 straight against the Panthers and lead the overall series, 21-2.

One thing Northern Iowa has done well this year is hit its free throws. The Panthers rank 17th in the country in free-throw percentage with a mark of 78.4. If the Hawkeyes keep them off the line, they should be fine.

Drake

Just another in-state opponent that Iowa has beaten up on over the past several years. The Drake-Iowa rivalry dates to 1974, with Drake leading the all-time series, 26-24.

Lately, however, it’s been all Iowa — the Hawkeyes are 15-1 in their past 16 meetings. This next one should just add to the victory column.

No. 23 Michigan State

The Spartans should prove to be the Hawkeyes’ toughest challenge over winter break. Michigan State is riding high after an upset of then-No. 3 Oregon on Dec. 9.

Last season, Iowa eked out a 71-68 overtime win against the Spartans, and if they hope to win again, they’ll need to shut down Michigan State’s Jenna Allen, who averages 16.3 points a game along with 7.3 rebounds.

Nebraska

The Huskers have gotten off to a rough start so far this season. They have a 4-5 record, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be a tough game for the Hawkeyes.

Nebraska has faced some tough opponents, and it dominated Iowa last season, winning both times the teams played each other.

Maddie Simon will be the player for Iowa to look out for. She torched the Hawkeyes last year, putting up 19 points in each matchup.

Wisconsin

After two seasons in which the Badgers totaled just 9 wins, they are off to their best start since the 2009-10 season at 8-3.

Rebounding and defense have sparked Wisconsin to its fast start. The Badgers rank second in the nation with 473 rebounds while holding opponents to a 13th-best 32.8 percent shooting to go along with their 5 blocks per game.

Purdue

While they may not be the best team in the Big Ten, the Boilermakers will be no pushover for the Hawkeyes.

Purdue is led by a trio of starters who all can put up points. Dominique Oden leads the group with 15.1 points per game, with Karissa McLaughlin (14.0) and Ae’Rianna Harris (13.2) right behind her.

It’s a crucial few weeks for Iowa as it transitions into Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes will want to jump out to a good start to put themselves in a good position come March.

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