Monika Czinano returns to home state as Iowa women’s basketball takes on Minnesota

Senior center Monika Czinano will take on her sister, Maggie, when the Hawkeyes travel to the Gophers on Thursday.


Grace Smith

Iowa center Monika Czinano goes in for a layup during a women’s basketball game between No. 12 Iowa and No. 15 Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Czinano shot 5-13 in field goals. Monika Czninano averages 19.3 points per game.

Dawson Moore, Sports Reporter

Iowa women’s basketball has dealt with a flurry of cancellations and injuries throughout the 2021-22 season.

The Hawkeyes had six games canceled or postponed because of COVID-19 so far. Most recently, Iowa’s contest against Indiana — originally scheduled for Sunday — was postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Hoosier program.

Iowa has also lost three players to injuries. Sophomore center Sharon Goodman and forward Shateah Wetering are out for the 2021-22 season because of ACL tears, and senior Logan Cook suffered a lower leg injury earlier in January that will keep her out of the game for an undetermined amount of time.

But one constant of the 2021-22 Iowa women’s basketball team has been senior center Monika Czinano.

Czinano has started all but one game for Iowa this season — she had to sit out the Hawkeyes’ contest against Evansville on Jan. 2 because of COVID-19 protocols.

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The center out of Watertown, Minnesota, has averaged 19.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting 65.7 percent from the field — good for third in the nation.

Now, Czinano will return to her home state as the Hawkeyes take on Minnesota in Minneapolis on Thursday. Watertown is a 40-minute drive from Williams Arena — or “The Barn” — where Minnesota plays its home games.

“I’ve heard a lot of my town is going to be there,” Czinano said in a Zoom meeting with reporters Wednesday. “My high school team is going to be there. My mom, my dad, and everyone’s going to be there so it’s going to be a lot of fun. I went to The Barn a lot growing up to watch the Gophers play, I remember I had a birthday party there in third grade, and that’s when I kind of realized that it was a goal of mine to play in college.”

Czinano also has a familiar foe on the Minnesota roster — her younger sister, Maggie.

Maggie is a freshman guard for the Gophers, standing at 6-foot. She was an elite prep school prospect at Watertown-Mayer High School, averaging 21 points, 2.2 steals, and 2.1 assists per game.

This season, Maggie has appeared in five contests for the Gophers and averaged 3 minutes per game.

“Yeah, I don’t know how many families get to say they get to play against their siblings in a Power Five conference and in one of the best conferences in the whole country,” Monika said. “When she committed, I was so excited, but I think I am just more excited that both of us are living out our dream. It’s really fun for our family and also really fun for the community and getting everybody behind it.”

Along with competing against her sister and seeing her family and friends, Monika will celebrate her 22nd birthday when the Hawkeyes take on the Golden Gophers on Thursday.

But the senior center is working on staying focused throughout the emotion.

“I think what’s really important for me going into this game is, there will be a lot of emotion connected to it,” Monika said. “For me, it’s just trying to separate myself from it a little bit and focusing on the game.”

The Gophers are coming into the contest with a 9-9 overall and 2-4 Big Ten record. Minnesota is led by junior Sara Scalia, who has averaged 15.7 points per game so far this season.

The No. 25 Hawkeyes will take on Minnesota at Williams Arena on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will be aired on Big Ten Network.