IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa's finals week starts next Monday, Dec. 12. Finals prep is in full force right now for students in Hawkeye land, including those on the women's basketball team.
That's why Iowa coach Lisa Bluder loves her upcoming schedule: Sunday at home vs. Northern Iowa, Dec. 7 at home vs. Iowa State, Dec. 9 at home vs. Robert Morris and Dec. 18 at Drake. Those four games will take the Hawkeyes through finals week, and the team will never have to travel out of the state.
"It is really nice," Bluder said. "This time of the year, players get a little stressed out about academics. And I think that is where their minds go a lot of times, and deservedly so. ... Right now, being at home and not traveling is really good for us."
First up on the schedule is UNI on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Panthers are 4-3 and fresh off a 61-50 loss to South Dakota State. (Iowa lost a 66-64 heartbreaker to SDSU in the Hawkeye Challenge.)
The Hawkeyes are 19-2 all-time against the Panthers and haven't lost to them since the 2006-07 season. Both of Iowa's wins the past two seasons have been blowouts (80-65 last year, 73-45 the year prior).
UNI is a young bunch with five freshmen, but it returns preseason all-Missouri Valley Conference guard Madison Weekly and was pegged to finish second this year in the MVC. It won the regular-season conference title last year.
Weekly leads the Panthers with 16 points per game and she's their top perimeter threat. Inside, it's all about 6-foot-2 senior Hannah Schonhardt, who averages 6.6 points and 7.3 boards per game.
Iowa is coming off a 73-58 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame. It played just about even with the Irish before the country's best team pulled away late.
"We stuck with Notre Dame for most of the game, and I think that really does give us confidence," Megan Gustafson said after the loss. "And again with UCLA, we stuck with them well. And I think here coming up, these games against some in-state rivals, I think that's going to help."
Iowa Hawkeyes (5-3) vs. Northern Iowa Panthers (4-3)
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
TV: Big Ten Network Plus
Since the 2006-07 loss to UNI, Iowa's outscored the Panthers by an average of 15 points in head-to-head matchups.
Bain covers Hawkeyes basketball for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.