The big story surrounding Rutgers’ Monday visit to Carver-Hawkeye Arena is the return of former Iowa coach C. Vivian Stringer.
For the current Hawkeyes, Monday’s meeting with Rutgers is just another big game.
Stringer, who won 269 games in 12 seasons at Iowa, will return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time since 2005 on Monday when Rutgers (10-3, 1-0 Big Ten Conference) and Iowa (11-2, 1-0) meet for the second time in Big Ten play.
“I’m sure it’s going to be more emotional for her coming back than for our team,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of Stringer. “Our team, they are young, when Vivian left here they weren’t even born yet, so for them it’s just playing another really good opponent.”
Stringer led Iowa to six Big Ten titles and nine NCAA Tournament appearances as the head coach of the Hawkeyes from 1983 to 1995.
During her 21 seasons at Rutgers, Stringer is 2-2 against Iowa, including a 57-51 win over the Hawkeyes in her only previous game as a visitor at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa has won the two most recent meetings, a 70-63 win in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and a 79-72 win last year at Rugers in the first Big Ten game between the two teams.
“Vivian has been back here, I think she was back her about a dozen years ago, which seems like a long time ago now,” Bluder said. “We brought her in for a nonconference game, so it’s not like the first time that Vivian will be back in Carver.”
The story may be the homecoming of Stringer, but for Iowa it’s another tough test in a difficult stretch to open Big Ten play.
Iowa opened Big Ten play with a 74-68 win over Nebraska on Thursday.
The win over the Cornhuskers started a four-game stretch to open conference play that concludes with a road trip to Michigan on Thursday and a home game against No. 6 Maryland on Sunday.
A win over Rutgers on Monday would give the Hawkeyes just their second 2-0 league start in the past 11 seasons.
“We want to get off to a good start for sure, but it’s a grind, it’s a long Big Ten season,” Iowa junior Ally Disterhoft said. “We play a lot of games and every single game you are going to have to give it your all.”
Rutgers opened Big Ten play with a 66-55 win over Minnesota on Thursday.
The Scarlet Knights have won five straight since a Dec. 3 loss at Florida State and are holding opponents to 42.2 points per game during that stretch.
Monday will be a contrast in styles.
Rutgers comes in tops in the conference in scoring defense, holding opponents to 52.3 points per game, while Iowa is averaging 76 points per game.
The Scarlet Knights rank second in the conference in defensive field-goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot just 34 percent. They have also allowed more than 60 points in a game just once in their last 10 games.
Iowa, meanwhile, is averaging 81.5 points over its last two games after putting up its season average of 76 in its Big Ten-opening win over Nebraska.
“It’s a long Big Ten season, we all know it’s a grind,” Bluder said. “Going 18 games and then having the tournament at the end of it, it’s just a long process, it’s a marathon not a sprint.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
Rutgers (10-3, 1-0) at Iowa (11-2, 1-0)
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Stat leaders: Iowa — Ally Disterhoft 17.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg; Chase Coley 10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg. Rutgers — Kahleah Copper 16.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg; Tyler Scaife 16.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg.
What to watch: Rutgers is one of the top defensive teams in the Big Ten, holding opponents to a league-best 52.3 points per game.
The challenge for the Scarlet Knights has been putting up points, as Rutgers ranks last in the conference in scoring at 61.5 points per game.
Senior Kahleah Copper and junior Tyler Scaife are the only two Rutgers players to average in double figures and account for better than 54 percent of the Scarlet Knights' scoring.
Led by 6-foot-4 Rachel Hollivay’s 3.2 blocks per game, Rutgers is the top shot-blocking team in the conference, swatting 5.2 shots per game.