Hawkeye women look to extend streak against Wolverines

Iowa posted complete performances in each of its last five games and looks to continue the trend against Michigan on Friday.

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Lily Smith

Iowa forward Hannah Stewart looks to the hoop during the Iowa/Purdue women’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 27, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Boilermakers, 72-58.

Pete Mills, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 13 Iowa women’s basketball (16-4, 7-2 Big Ten) is on a tear through the conference, winning its last five games. It will try to continue the streak against Michigan (12-9, 3-6 Big Ten) on Friday.

The contest was originally scheduled for Thursday night, but the game was postponed due to continuing inclement weather.

The Hawkeyes have played the part of a steamroller in the past few weeks. Four of their five wins during the streak have been by more than 10 points. The team has taken care of the ball, defended with fervor, and scored from all over the floor.

The second half of the conference slate, though, is set to be challenging for the Hawkeyes — it kicks off in Ann Arbor on Friday.

“The second half is a little bit harder for us because we have five road games and only four home games,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said after the team’s victory over Purdue. “Great teams win on the road, and we’ve got to be able to do that.”

Lily Smith
Michigan forward Naz Hillmon high fives team staff members during the Iowa/Michigan women’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, January 17, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolverines, 75-61.

Michigan looked formidable to start the year. Freshman Naz Hillmon and senior Hallie Thome — two post players for the Wolverines — have given opponents headaches this season.

The pair put up a combined 32 points against the Hawkeyes in their first meeting and gave Iowa an intense defensive battle in the paint.

Despite this, Michigan has struggled in recent weeks. The team has dropped four of its last five — including the loss to Iowa — with three of those losses by more than 10 points.

Iowa had its way with the Wolverines in that first matchup on Jan. 17, winning 75-61.

“We shot the ball well, our 3-point defense was good, we had four people in double figures,” Bluder said afterward. “Twenty-five assists on 34 baskets — there are just so many good things that are happening with this team.”

Iowa has won as a team, in the same ways, over the last several games. When all-everything Megan Gustafson struggled against Purdue, Hannah Stewart stepped up. When the Hawkeyes needed a jump-start in its ranked-win over Rutgers, guard Kathleen Doyle answered the call.

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In the win over Michigan, the team’s three starting seniors — Tania Davis, Gustafson, and Stewart — combined to put up 47 points, 24 rebounds, and 15 assists.

That win over Michigan threw Iowa into a special stretch.

Gustafson has performed up to the high standards she has set. Each of the wins on the roll has included a Gustafson double-double with 25 points or more.

The Hawkeyes know something special is happening.

“They deserve this,” Bluder said after the team’s win against Purdue. “These women work so hard, they’re great role models, they do everything that you want from a Hawkeye.”

The special mojo will have to be channeled this week, because the Hawkeyes have two road games, including the rematch against the Wolverines.

“This week is a challenge,” Bluder said. “We have two road games coming up, at Michigan and at Penn State. It’s going to challenging week for us, but we won two road games last week, so there’s no reason we can’t do it.”

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