Iowa women's basketball: No. 18 Hawkeyes look to keep momentum, home success flowing
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Back home after Monday's strong road win, the Iowa women’s basketball run through the Big Ten continues its march. The Hawkeyes return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena with optimism and promise.
“I think we’re just so confident in each other and in our team that we know what we’re capable of,” junior guard Kathleen Doyle said. “When we have second halves like (at Minnesota), we don’t forget about those. We try to take those and carry forward and try to do that again.
“Just having that experience of having those great moments as a team, we really just do our best to capture those runs and continue on.”
The next challenge comes Thursday when No. 18 Iowa (12-4, 3-2 Big Ten Conference) hosts Michigan (11-6, 2-3) at 7 p.m. on BTN. It’s the first of three home contests in a four-game stretch as the Hawkeyes look to build their first extended winning streak in conference play.
Iowa has thrived in its friendly confines, going 8-0 this season while averaging 83 points per game. The entire league has followed a similar trend through the first two weeks and change of conference action.
Entering Wednesday’s slate, home teams in Big Ten play are 26-9. That a .743 winning percentage, meaning Iowa must transform Monday’s momentum into Thursday dominance.
“It’d be really great to just keep going and keep winning and build onto that (win) column and take care of things at home,” senior Megan Gustafson said. “Right now, we really hope to keep that going.”
Expect another down-low grind for Gustafson, who gets first-team all-Big Ten center Hallie Thome Thursday night.
The 6-foot-5 Michigan standout had trouble in Iowa City last year — she fouled out while Gustafson went for 27 points and 11 boards — but Lisa Bluder expects more physicality another time around.
“You’re going to see two of the best posts in America going against each other,” the Hawkeyes coach said. “I mean, what an unbelievable opportunity to see two future WNBA draft picks in the post position going head-to-head against each other.”
As is the case most nights, a heavy Gustafson focus should give Iowa’s guards ample opportunities for success. That group woke up in a big way Monday, combining for 37 points and 19 assists in the Minnesota comeback.
When that group brings the noise, Iowa looks like a Big Ten title contender and maybe more. Bluder hopes Monday is a nice catalyst.
“When our guards are playing well, that is what makes us a special team,” Bluder said. “Everybody knows we have Megan and Hannah Stewart and how well we shoot inside, but what makes us a special team is when the guards are playing well.
“I think sometimes we focus on what we’re not doing well as coaches, and we forget about the things that we’re doing really, really well. We’re (third) in America in assists. We’re fifth in America in assist-to-turnover ratio That’s our guards doing their jobs. We sometimes forget to remind our players just how good they are.”
Iowa showed that Monday in a nice road win. Now, the Hawkeyes are looking to string a few strong outings together.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.