Iowa women’s basketball set for rematch with Michigan State

The Hawkeyes will look to continue their astounding success at home Thursday against Michigan State.

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Iowa women’s basketball set for rematch with Michigan State

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson hands the ball to teammate Kathleen Doyle 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.

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson hands the ball to teammate Kathleen Doyle 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.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson hands the ball to teammate Kathleen Doyle 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.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson hands the ball to teammate Kathleen Doyle 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

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After a week and a half away from Carver-Hawkeye, Iowa (17-5, 8-3, Big Ten) will return to tipping off on the Tigerhawk tonight, when it takes on No. 23 Michigan State (16-5, 6-4 Big Ten).

This will be the second meeting between the two teams. In the first matchup, Megan Gustafson became Iowa’s all-time leading scorer in the first half. Iowa rode the momentum of Gustafson’s record-setting game to a first-half lead, then proceeded to lose control of the game and fell, 84-70.

“They beat us at our own game,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said afterwards. “They outscored us in the paint, 48-40, and had 30 paint points in the second half.”

RELATED: Gustafson shatters Big Ten record with 20th Player of the Week honor

It was a tough loss to take for the Hawkeyes, which means they are out for a little bit of revenge. They hope to turn some of those second-half mistakes from last game into strengths.

Lily Smith
Iowa associate head coach Jan Jenson speaks to center Megan Gustafson on the bench during the Iowa/Purdue women’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 27, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Boilermakers, 72-58.

“It helps that we already played them once,” Gustafson said. “We’re excited about a rematch for sure. We are going to need better defense — post defense is going to be important.”

Michigan State’s success in the post in the victory earlier in the season was largely the work of the Spartan center Jenna Allen.

She put up 20 points and 17 rebounds while swatting away 2 shots. Allen caused chaos down-low for Iowa.

She also provides a unique challenge for the Hawkeyes because they have to guard her on the perimeter as well. In the last matchup, Allen was 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.

“Anytime a post player can shoot 3s, it’s impressive,” Gustafson said. “It brings me out of my comfort zone a little bit. The good thing is we’ve been preparing for it all week.”

Iowa will have a huge advantage this time around that it didn’t have last time: Carver-Hawkeye.

Carver has truly been Hawkeye heaven for Bluder’s Bunch this year. The Hawkeyes are 11-0 at home, beating teams by an average of 19 points.

While Iowa has had no problem scoring at home this season, its strength at home this season has been its defense. On the road, the Hawkeyes have allowed teams to score 76.5 points per game, while at home, they’ve allowed just 61.3 points a game.

Their defense at home has been tenacious all season, and it’s the main reason they have yet to lose at home.

Iowa’s prowess in Carver could have postseason implications come NCAA Tournament time — the top four seeds from each region get to host the first four games.

Currently, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the Hawkeyes as a No. 4 seed, meaning two NCAA Tournament games in Carver come March is a real possibility.

“It would be terrific,” Bluder said. “Everybody knows the advantage of playing on your home court. It’s significant. We would love to host the first round, but we know we have to finish really strong.”

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