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Hawkeye women look to stay perfect at home

The Iowa women are an undefeated 12-0 at home this season. The team hopes to remain perfect tonight with a matchup against Illinois.

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Hawkeye women look to stay perfect at home

Iowa center Megan Gustafson attempts a shot during the Iowa/Purdue women's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 27, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Boilermakers, 72-58.

Iowa center Megan Gustafson attempts a shot 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

Iowa center Megan Gustafson attempts a shot 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

Lily Smith

Iowa center Megan Gustafson attempts a shot 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

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Iowa women’s basketball (19-5, 10-3 Big Ten) is 12-0 on its home court this season, and Illinois (10-4, 2-11) will try to challenge the streak tonight.

It’s the second meeting between the two teams. The first, on Jan. 20, ended with a complete Hawkeye victory, 94-75. The Hawkeyes, who have won five of their last six, dismantled the Illini in that meeting.

Along with a typically formidable showing from Megan Gustafson, the Iowa guards had a strong outing. Tania Davis and Kathleen Doyle combined for 36 points and 9 assists. The Hawkeyes were 11-for-22 from 3-point range, marking one of their best contests on the season.

Iowa — led by Gustafson — also claimed 38 boards to Illinois’ 21.

Strong post play is a trait of Illinois. Senior Alex Wittinger leads the Illini from down low in scoring and in rebounds. She’s second in the Big Ten in blocked shots this season and slapped back 4 shots against the Hawkeyes on Jan. 20.

David Harmantas
Iowa forward Megan Gustafson (10) smiles as she walks off the court after a basketball game against Michigan State on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans 86-71.

Illinois won its most recent game against Wisconsin with a strong showing from Wittinger, who put up a double-double — 24 points and 12 rebounds.

Iowa will defend its 12-0 Carver-Hawkeye record and a three-game winning streak, with all of the previous victories coming by 15 or more points. With a ranked matchup against Maryland looming next week, a similar win over Illinois would give Iowa timely momentum.

“We have two home games [this week],” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “That feels really good. We’ve had three convincing wins in a row with two on the road. I feel like our team is clicking now.”

Though Iowa has had success in recent weeks, it will most likely be without one of its veteran guards, Makenzie Meyer. Two younger guards, Tomi Taiwo and Alexis Sevillian, have filled her shoes.

RELATED: Hawkeye women shine at home

Taiwo saw some of her most minutes of the season in the team’s win over Michigan State, recording 1 steal and 2 assists. The coaching staff has been happy with her production, and she is expected to be a key player in the future.

“We’ve been encouraging [Taiwo],” Gustafson said. “All of us believed in her from the start. She’s a great player. It’s really exciting to see her in this role, and she’s been embracing it.”

The focus now, though, is Gustafson.

The accolades have been piling up for the senior, and she has responded with dominant performances. She’s put up at least 25 points in each of her last seven games, and all but one of those have been paired with at least 10 boards.

“We know this is a special Megan with a special team, too,” Bluder said. “Megan has unbelievable talent, but she’s in a place with a great cast of characters. We certainly sit back and say this is something special.”

The team is clearly a special one, but it has been even more special at home. With only three home games left this season, the Iowa women want to remain perfect on home court.

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