Iowa women’s basketball returns five starters, adds crucial transfer

The Hawkeye women are ranked in the top 10 of every preseason poll and picked up a valuable transfer in the offseason.


Gabby Drees

Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder speaks during day one of Big Ten Media Days at Target Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. This year marks the first year of the Target Center hosting Big Ten Media Days.

Grant Hall, Sports Reporter

A theme of Iowa women’s basketball for the second straight year is familiar faces.

Head coach Lisa Bluder’s squad enter the year ranked in the top 10 of every preseason poll so far. The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten preseason media and coaches polls — primarily because of their returning experience and star power.

The Hawkeyes bring back their entire starting five from the past two seasons and over 94 percent of their total scoring from a season ago. 

All-Americans Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano are back for their third and fifth seasons in Iowa City, respectively. Seniors McKenna Warnock, Gabbie Marshall, and Kate Martin round out the third-year starting lineup.

“We have every reason to have high expectations for this upcoming season,” Bluder said on Oct. 11 at Big Ten Basketball Media Days in Minneapolis. “We have experience, and we have offense. We have a great schedule, and we have a great fan base. It’s going to be a fun year.”

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Iowa lost two bench pieces from last season, most significantly Tomi Taiwo. The 5-foot-10 guard transferred to TCU this offseason after averaging 4.6 points a year ago. Junior guard Kylie Feuerbach will also be out for the entire season as she tore her ACL over the summer.

The biggest change for this year’s edition of the Hawkeyes is the addition of transfer Molly Davis. She started every game of her collegiate career at Central Michigan, averaging 18.6 points per game as a junior and 20.8 as a sophomore. Her addition will provide valuable point guard depth behind Clark.

“I think the biggest difference for us will be Molly Davis,” Bluder said. “I think the addition of her was huge for our program. We didn’t really have a true backup point guard last year, and now we have it.”

Davis’ ability to play both guard spots could allow her to share floor time with Clark, too.

“Molly can play point guard and off guard,” Bluder said. “Last year, we had to play Caitlin for probably too many minutes. When you have two guards who play that well together on the floor, it’s really hard for opposing teams to press, and one person doesn’t have to be the one to bring the guard up the floor.”

RELATED: Davis to add depth, versatility for Iowa women’s basketball

Bluder also highlighted a handful of freshmen and underclassmen who have a chance to crack the rotation and earn meaningful minutes this season.

“We have Hannah Stuelke [coming in], she’s a freshman from Cedar Rapids, “Bluder said. “She was Miss Iowa Basketball, and we also had Miss Nebraska Basketball join our team this year in Taylor McCabe.”

Bluder also noted the improvement from post players Addy O’Grady and Sharon Goodman, who will likely back up Czinano.

Goodman is back after suffering a torn ACL last October. The 6-foot-3 sophomore from Lime Springs will shore up the interior when Czinano is off the floor.

Outside of personnel changes, the Iowa players believe an improved mentality will give them an edge this year. 

Last season, the Hawkeyes won the Big Ten Tournament and entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed, but fell to the 10th-seeded Creighton Bluejays in the second round. 

“We have that taste of success in our mouths now,” Czinano said. “We have so much more experience than last year. We’ve kind of transitioned from ‘hunters’ to ‘the hunted’, all in the span of one season. We’re almost at a pro team level at this point, with all the people we have back from the starting five.”

Clark said Iowa’s loss to Creighton has been a point of frustration and motivation for her and her teammates all offseason. 

“We obviously had that success in the Big Ten Tournament,” Clark said. “You see the title in that tournament, but we also had to feel that pain of getting upset [in the NCAA tournament]. I think those two feelings combined will continue to give us some fire moving forward.”