Hawkeye women shine at home

Hawkeye women’s basketball is 11-0 at home this season. And the players and coaches want more.


Lily Smith

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle gestures at the crowd to get loud during the Iowa/Purdue women’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 27, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Boilermakers, 72-58. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Mills, Assistant Sports Editor

Carver-Hawkeye Arena has been pretty close to heaven for Hawkeye women’s basketball this season.

But it’s not heaven, it’s Iowa. Right?

The team is 11-0 on its home court this season, and its two ranked wins have both come at home. The Hawkeyes are averaging more points in Carver, and it’s been nearly impossible to score on them at home.

The funny thing about this, though, is that dominant center Megan Gustafson is not better on her own court. Statistically, she’s averaging more points and rebounds on the road. None of her offensive season-highs have happened in the friendly confines of Carver-Hawkeye.

The same is true for the offense as a whole. The team averages 82.1 points at home this season, only marginally better than the average in away games. So what’s happening?

The magic lies in the defense: The Hawkeyes have given up around 76.9 points per game on the road this season. That’s respectable, but they’ve been different at home, giving up only 61.2 points per game. You read that right; they’re giving up nearly 16 points fewer per game at home.

With four home games left in the waning regular season, this makes it much harder for teams who have to take on Iowa at Carver.

Take Purdue, for example. In the first meeting between the two teams, Iowa struggled. That meeting in West Lafayette left much to be desired for the Hawkeyes; they were outrebounded, outscored, and couldn’t buy a bucket from beyond the arc.

“We should have played better [at Purdue], and we will [at home],” coach Lisa Bluder said leading up to the rematch. “We’re going to have a great crowd here. We are going to be prepared for them.”

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Bluder was right. The Hawkeyes turned all of those categories around at home in the rematch against Purdue, outrebounding and outworking the Boilermakers en route to a 72-58 win.

Carver has affected other parts of their game as well. The team averages 13 turnovers per game at home; the same team loses the ball 14.1 times per game on the road. Iowa also grabs nearly 5 more boards per game at home.

Opposing coaches realize that it’s hard to mess with the Hawkeyes when they’re on their own court. Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer perhaps understands this better than anyone because of her tenure at the helm of Iowa.

“The fans are great, aren’t they?” Stringer said after Iowa beat Rutgers on Jan. 23. “They always are.”

The fan base is growing, too. The team’s game against Purdue on Sunday hosted the largest home crowd of the season, 9,319. Still, the Hawkeyes want more.

“These women work so hard, and I think they deserve it,” Bluder said after the home win against Purdue. “I think Carver should be full. I think we had 5,000 missing people today. Where are they?”

Maybe Bluder and the Hawkeyes will have that question answered for them in just a few short weeks. On Feb. 17, Iowa will host Maryland — which has been in the top 10 for much of the season — in a home matchup. It will surely be a tough game, but the Hawkeyes have learned that their beating heart is on home turf.

Then, maybe we’ll see how close to heaven Iowa really is.