Hawkeye women prepare for Indiana ahead of tournament season

Iowa hopes to continue its run of success in Bloomington, Indiana, as it gets set to take on the Hoosiers.


Katina Zentz

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle dribbles past Maryland guard Kaila Charles during the women’s basketball game vs. Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, February 17, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins 86-73.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

The Iowa weather may not know it, but March is rapidly approaching, which means college-basketball games are ratcheting up the intensity.

That is especially true of the No. 10 Iowa women (21-5, 12-3 Big Ten), who have launched themselves into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with just three games left to go in the regular season. The Hawkeyes’ next test will take place in Bloomington against Indiana today.

The Hawkeyes will play another game on the road (Nebraska, Feb. 25) before the they come home March 3 for the regular-season finale against Northwestern.

None of the remaining games are against high-profile teams, but they are important nonetheless. As of now, the Hawkeyes would have the first seed in the Big Ten Tournament, with a more than favorable shot to host their first two games in the NCAA Tournament.

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All of that would be a sizable advantage for the Hawkeyes in March, and it’s all feasible if they can stay the course.

Roman Slabach
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder shows frustration with a call in a women’s basketball game against the Nebraska Huskers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday January 3, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Huskers, 77-71.

“We have a great opportunity right now,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “But we don’t want to stub our toe and lose something that is within our grasp.”

The Hawkeyes and Hoosiers will collide near the end of two very different seasons. Indiana has lost five of its last six games, including four in a row, which puts it 11th in the Big Ten.

Iowa comes in on a five-game winning streak and having won 10 of its last 11, a stretch that has helped it to the first-place tie and put it in the top 10 of the AP for the first time in the Bluder era.

“We haven’t been in the top 10 since the year I was born,” forward Megan Gustafson said. “So it’s exciting, but being a top 10 team doesn’t mean we don’t have something to prove anymore, because we do. We have to take that into everything we do from here on out.”

Even with the shiny new ranking, Iowa still has the single-game mindset, and it’s locked in on the task ahead of it.

“All we are focused on is Indiana,” guard Kathleen Doyle said. “We were excited about last Sunday’s win, but that doesn’t really mean anything unless we get the job done these next three games. We’re just focusing on one game at a time.”

Gustafson will figure to be a major part of the Hawkeyes’ game plan, given that she has averaged almost a full 10 points more per game in conference play than anyone.

However, Indiana will counter Gustafson’s drop step with its own aggressive post play from junior forward Brenna Wise.

She ranks sixth nationally in free-throw percentage and has led Indiana to 15th nationally in free throws made.

While Gustafson and fellow post player Hannah Stewart will fend off aggressive attacks inside, Iowa’s guards will need to continue to play the stellar defense that has helped it hold opponents to a conference-low 29.3 3-point percentage.