IOWA CITY — The Iowa Hawkeyes have feasted on ranked competition this season, compiling a 6-0 record against teams residing in the Top 25.
Thursday, the tables turn.
Iowa (16-5 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) carries its first ranking of the season – No. 24 in the Associated Press poll – into its game at Illinois (11-8, 4-3). Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
“You look at us being No. 24, and it’s something we’ve earned,” center Morgan Johnson said. “But we’re not OK with being No. 24. We want to keep getting better.”
The ranking is Iowa’s first since Feb. 28, 2011.
“I haven’t met with the team yet (since it came out),” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said at Tuesday’s press conference, “but I met with our three captains, and they were really excited about it.
“They’ve worked hard for this and they deserve it. But we also know we’re only as good as that next game and winning that next game.”
That comes against a team that is hard to figure.
The Fighting Illini are 0-3 in Big Ten play at home, 4-0 on the road.
“You know, it’s strange,” Bluder said. “But sometimes you have to look at the opponents that they’re playing against. They played Purdue at home, they played Michigan State at home, and Northwestern was kind of the weird one. They split with them, winning at Northwestern and losing at home.”
Iowa has been traditionally successful at Illinois, winning the last seven times at Assembly Hall.
“We like playing there,” Iowa guard Jaime Printy said. “We feel confident and comfortable there. But (Thursday) is going to be tough. We’ve got to be ready.”
Illinois has a new coach in Matt Bollant, who took over after a stint at Wisconsin-Green Bay that included a 148-19 record and four trips to the NCAA tournament.
“They’re an aggressive team, and we’ll have to keep our compsure,” Bluder said. “(Point guard) Sam (Logic) is going to be key, because she can’t panic in the traps of their pressure defense.”
No. 24 IOWA (16-5, 5-2) at ILLINOIS (11-8, 4-3)
Where: Assembly Hall, Champaign, Ill.
Tipoff: 7 p.m. Thursday
Radio: KXIC-AM (800), KMJM-AM (1360)
Notes: Jaime Printy was the Big Ten player of the week. Iowa has beaten Illinois eight straight times, and seven straight times at Champaign. Printy ranks fifth in the nation in free throw shooting (.931) while Samantha Logic is sixth in assists (7.1 per game). Adrienne GodBold is averaging 18.9 points per game in her eight games; Karisma Penn adds 18.7 points per game. Mckenzie Piper, a freshman who was on Iowa City West’s state-championship team last year, has played in 14 games and averages 2.2 points.