Defense the key as Hawkeye women attempt to bounce back against Penn State

There’s no place like home for the Hawkeyes, but this weekend, they find themselves facing two road games.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa guard Tania Davis plays defense during a women’s basketball matchup between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 72-66.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

This week’s polar vortex was so cold it made its way on to the basketball court, postponing the No. 13 Iowa women’s basketball game in Michigan from 5 p.m. Jan.31 to 11 a.m. Feb. 1.

With that, the Hawkeyes will now have played two road games this weekend. After the Wolverines snapped Iowa’s winning streak, Iowa will head to University Park for a matchup with Penn State.

Iowa’s previous win streak propelled it to No. 12 in the coaches’ poll and No. 13 in the AP poll.

That’s should be exciting to Hawkeye fans, but head coach Lisa Bluder wants her players to manage their excitement.

“I want them to know they’re ranked No. 12 in the country, but at the same time, they’re the same kids who at the beginning of the year weren’t ranked that high,” Bluder said. “I want to keep them level-headed, blinders on, going into each game preparing just as hard for each game as we have all season.”

The remaining Big Ten games have dwindled down to nine, and Iowa currently trails in the Big Ten race by a game, making every game crucial down the stretch.

That is especially true of its road games, as it has struggled away from Carver-Hawkeye this season.

The Hawkeyes have gone 5-4 in their games away from Iowa City, compared to an undefeated record (11-0) at home.

A large portion of Iowa’s struggles on the road can be found in their defense. At home, Iowa has given up an average of 61.1 points per game. On the road, though, it has given up a whopping 76.6 points per contest.

That is a whole 15.5 points more than Iowa is giving up away from the comforts of its home court. That type of play isn’t going to win very many games come March.

However, there are some signs that poor defensive play may be at an end for Iowa as it comes into this weekend on a stretch where it has held six of its last seven opponents to 66 or less points, including two road games.

The one game it failed to hold their opponent under 67 was against Illinois when Iowa was up by double digits midway through the first quarter.

“I think our defense has been really good,” Bluder said. “I like our defense and I think we’ve done a good job.”

Iowa hopes it can keep this defensive momentum going through this weekend and in order to do that, ignoring the hype is paramount.

“The thing for us to stay hot is to keep approaching every game as it’s the first or last game of the year,” Bluder said. “We can’t get caught up in any excitement or hype.”

Much of Iowa’s improved defensive numbers come courtesy of solid perimeter defense from the guards. Over the past six games, Iowa has been able to limit opponents’ effectiveness behind the 3-point line.

Since Jan. 3, the Hawkeyes have held opponents to just 25.9 percent shooting from deep, which is 13 percent less than it was the first 13 games of the season (38.9 percent).