Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder breaks down the Hawkeyes’ win over Ohio State. Dargan Southard/HawkCentral
IOWA CITY, Ia. — They’ve already racked up the statement win, but there’s still work left to accomplish this week. Back-to-back home games haven’t appeared on the Hawkeyes’ schedule in nearly two months. Iowa doesn’t want to waste the opportunity.
Three days removed from a pivotal 103-89 win over No. 14 Ohio State, the 25th-ranked Hawkeyes (16-5, 4-4 Big Ten) return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for another quality showdown Sunday against Nebraska (15-6, 6-2). It’s the first time Iowa has had consecutive home games since hosting Florida State on Nov. 29 and Samford on Dec. 3.
“We’re anxious to get back at Nebraska,” Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said after the Ohio State win. “We just played there a week ago, so we know them, fresh in our minds.
“They’re playing really well. They’re a good basketball team, but we get them on our home court. We’re going to have a great crowd. It’s Girl Scout Day — that always brings out a lot of screaming young girls who help give us energy. We want to play hard for them, so we’re just kind of looking forward.
"We understand how good they are, but we’re looking forward to playing them again.”
The Cornhuskers continue to be one of the Big Ten’s biggest surprises, having won six of their last seven while inching toward the NCAA Tournament’s doorstep. ESPN.com women’s basketball bracketologist Charlie Crème had Nebraska as the third team out in this week’s projection. After knocking off Purdue on Wednesday, a win over Iowa could push the Cornhuskers into the field in next week’s bracket.
Nebraska already toppled the Hawkeyes this season as part of their recent surge, upending Iowa, 74-65, on Jan. 16. Although Megan Gustafson delivered an impressive double-double (29 points and 18 rebounds), the Nebraska defense held the Hawkeyes to just 39 percent shooting and 0-for-7 from deep.
Kathleen Doyle had an uncharacteristically off night (eight points on 2-for-11 shooting), and Makenzie Meyer was still sidelined with her fractured left hand.
“We just did not shoot the ball well, but in saying that, I think Nebraska is a really good defensive team,” Bluder said. “I think they do a great job of playing just good player defense. They pressure the ball very well. I think they help extremely well on all drives. I think they clog up the middle, so I think part of that was they’re a good defensive team.
“And we’re going to have to be ready for that come Sunday.”
There are reinforcements now that could help mitigate another off shooting day. Meyer returned home Thursday with 18 points on 4-for-6 from deep, a good sign for Iowa as it looks to weave its sophomore guard back into the fold.
Bluder believes the Hawkeyes are “a different team” with Meyer back, and Sunday provides another chance for her to get accustomed to the brace on her left hand that’ll likely be there a couple more weeks.
“(Having Makenzie back) lets us play the way we want to play,” Bluder said. “It spreads the court out so much, and so when she hit that first one, I was so happy. I was just, like, ‘Yes!’ … It felt so good to get that 3-point shooting back again.”
Another home win would generate a similar feeling.
“It’s really fun, playing with this team,” senior Chase Coley said. “I’m just making more memories with this team, and it’s really fun.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.