Hawkeyes face former coach Stringer, No. 16 Rutgers
Much of the intrigue swirling around Iowa's inaugural Big Ten Conference meeting with Rutgers on Sunday centers around who is on the bench.
The two winningest coaches in Iowa history meet as Lisa Bluder takes her 20th-ranked Hawkeyes to Piscataway, N.J. for the first time to face C. Vivian Stringer and No. 16 Rutgers.
However, it's what is at stake on the court that intrigues the Hawkeyes.
Iowa (10-2, 1-0 Big Ten) will try to open Big Ten play with back-to-back wins for the first time in a decade in Sunday's 11 a.m. matchup at the Louis Brown Athletic Center (Big Ten Network).
Standing in the way of the Hawkeyes' first 2-0 start in conference play since the 2004-05 season is Stringer, who won 269 games while leading the Hawkeyes from 1983-1995.
"She had a lot of great teams come through here and she compiled a lot of victories," sophomore Ally Disterhoft said of Stringer. "I think this game is a little more special just because of that but we are going to put all of that aside when we step out on the court and be ready to go."
There is plenty more at stake for both teams than a meeting with a familiar foe.
Iowa, which has made a habit of knocking off ranked foes under Bluder, has a chance for its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
Meanwhile, Rutgers (10-3, 1-1) will be trying to avoid consecutive Big Ten losses after falling at Ohio State on Thursday.
"It tells it all with them, to be ranked in the Top 25, they are a great team led by a great coach," Disterhoft said. "They are a very physical team, they are great at crashing and pushing in transition so we are really just going to have to be ready to come out and play and be prepared for a physical team."
Iowa enters today's game riding a four-game winning streak after a 77-52 win over Penn State in its Big Ten opener.
The Hawkeyes are averaging better than 82 points per game during their winning streak and haven't dropped a game since a road loss at No. 7 Louisville on Dec. 4.
A big reason for Iowa's surge of late has been the play of senior guard Melissa Dixon.
Dixon, who leads the nation in 3-pointers per game at 3.9, has hit 15 3-pointers in the last two games.
Dixon leads five Iowa players in double figures at 15.2 points per game, while Disterhoft is right behind at 15.1.
The Hawkeyes will rely on that balanced scoring against a Rutgers squad that is allowing just 58.6 points per game.
"We know that they are a really great team and an awesome program," Dixon said. "We know that we have to have a lot of focus and intensity going into that game."
Rutgers is led by Tyler Scaife and Betnijah Laney, who both average 16.3 points per game.
Laney leads the Big Ten in rebounding with 12.5 per game and has helped the Scarlet Knights outrebound opponents by an average of 5.5 per game.
Iowa has been outrebounded in seven straight games and has been outrebounded by an average of 4.7 rebounds per game on the season.
"I think defense and rebounding is a key in every game and something that we have been stressing the whole year," Disterhoft said. "Just really cleaning up the boards, making sure everyone is crashing and getting a body on people on the defensive end."
Reach Ryan Murken at 339-7369 or email@example.com.
No. 20 Iowa (10-2, 1-0) at No. 16 Rutgers (10-3, 1-1)
• Specifics — 11 a.m. Louis Brown Athletic Center, Piscataway, N.J.
• Following the game — TV: BTN Radio: KXIC (800 AM), WMT (AM 600), WHO (1040 AM) Hawkeye Radio Network. Live scoring: www.hawkeyesports.com.
• Preview — Iowa will try to start Big Ten play with back-to-back wins for the first time in 10 years when it faces former coach C. Vivian Stringer and No. 16 Rutgers. Stringer is the second-winningest coach in Iowa program history behind only Lisa Bluder after winning 269 games from 1983 to 1995.