Iowa women's basketball head coach Lisa Bluder talks about the significance of the in-state rivalry to the program. Matt Bain / The Iowa City Press-Citizen
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Imagine Ally Disterhoft playing up in Ames, wearing red and gold, traveling through a Big 12 slate and sporting “Cyclones” across her chest. Imagine her playing as the road team when Iowa hosts Iowa State on Wednesday night.
It almost happened.
“Pretty close, I think,” Disterhoft said Monday.
Iowa State offered her before Iowa did. But she held out for that scholarship from the Hawkeyes.
“I was always a Hawk fan, through and through,” she said.
That’s the thing about Iowa vs. Iowa State, at least in women's hoops. These rivalry games don’t really affect the in-state recruiting battle, Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said. Kids grow up as either Cyclones or Hawkeyes fans, and the result of a basketball game won’t often change that.
It didn’t for Disterhoft, who watched Iowa lose at Iowa State during her junior year at Iowa City West.
It didn’t change anything for Makenzie Meyer, who was teammates with Iowa State star Jadda Buckley at Mason City High. A freshman in Buckley’s senior season, Meyer imagined herself playing against Buckley as a Hawkeye one day.
“This is something that, as an Iowa kid, you dream about your whole life,” Meyer said. “I’m really excited for it.”
Meyer knows firsthand just how good Buckley is. So does Disterhoft, who played AAU ball with the Cyclones’ point guard. Buckley just earned her second Big 12 player of the week honor after recording a 19-point, 11-assist double-double in Iowa State’s 85-81 overtime loss Saturday to fifth-ranked Mississippi State.
Buckley averages 15.6 points and 7.4 assists per game. She's the motor for a roster that boasts the country’s 14th-best scoring offense and its third-most efficient 3-point attack.
“She was a great teammate,” Meyer said of Buckley. “She’s amazing at passing the ball. She always found the open girl. Just definitely a team leader, too.”
Added Bluder: “She is such a composed point guard. She’s smart, she knows the game well. She comes off so many ball screens and reads the defense well. Obviously, she can score. You can never let down on her, because if you let down on her for just one second, she’s going to make you pay for that.”
The Cyclones enter Wednesday 6-1. They're looking for a Big Four sweep after beating Drake 75-67 and edging UNI 76-68.
On paper, Iowa has the defense to fluster Iowa State. The Hawkeyes have a top-40 3-point defense and a top-30 overall shooting defense. They’ve also held opponents to fewer than 40 points three times this year — that’s the best rate in the Big Ten.
“Iowa State’s playing good basketball right now. We respect what they’re doing currently,” Disterhoft said. “But we’re playing them on our home floor; we’re excited about that. We’re hopefully going to have a really big crowd to support us. It's black-out night.”
The Cyclones topped Iowa 69-66 in Ames last year. Disterhoft scored 26 and Buckley netted 12 in that one. The Hawkeyes beat Iowa State 76-67 in Iowa City the year prior. The home team has won 14 of the past 15 games of this rivalry series, including every game since 2007.
So there’s a slight mental edge to being the home team in this game. Emphasis on slight.
“We almost got it over at their place last year,” Bluder said. “I think we had an eight-point lead going into the fourth quarter, so we know anything can happen, obviously. And we know we’re not invincible on our home court since we’ve already lost here this year.”
Iowa leads the all-time series, 24-22.
Wednesday's Cy-Hawk game:
WHO: Iowa State (6-1) at Iowa (6-3)
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City
TIME/TV: 7 p.m., BTN Plus
ABOUT THE GAME: Iowa State has one of the best 3-point offenses in the country, and Iowa has one of the best 3-point defenses. This should be fun.
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_.