Iowa hasn’t loss to a ranked opponent away from Carver-Hawkeye arena all season. The Hawkeyes women’s basketball team is 4-0 with an average margin over victory of 14.5 points per game, including two 20-point wins.
If that wasn’t enough confidence heading to Lincoln, Neb., to face the No. 24 Cornhuskers Sunday, Iowa knows firsthand it can hang with its Big Ten foes. Two weeks ago the Hawkeyes fell to Nebraska 76-75.
“It was a one-point defeat, and I never want to get too excited about defeats by any means or take those almost kind of victories,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “But at the same time, our team knows that they can play with them, and I think that's a good thing.”
The Hawkeyes also learned to keep an eye on the Cornhuskers Jordan Hooper.
Last time against Iowa, the junior scored 29 points in 31 minutes. She also pulled down eight boards – tied for the team high. Her one weakness came from beyond the arc where she made just 2 of 8. Her teammates picked up the slack burying 8 of 15.
“It's like Hooper, she's a good shooter, but percentage-wise there are other shooters on the team that shoot a much better percentage,” Bluder said. “It's just that she takes so many more shots than anybody else on the floor.”
Against the 3-happy Cornhuskers, Iowa plans to drop back in a zone. The Hawkeyes unleashed a zone against No. 18 Purdue and held the Boilermakers to 5 of 20 from deep.
“Well, our zone defense is very good,” Bluder said. “Our defense as a whole was pretty darn good against Purdue.”
Sunday, Iowa attempts to tally its eighth win against top 25 opponents. Overall the Hawkeyes are 7-1 against ranked teams, the only loss came to No. 8 Penn State. The Nittany Lions began a stretch of three straight ranked opponents. Nebraska is the third, and could be the newest line on the Hawkeyes’ tournament resume.
“We need some more wins for the NCAA Tournament resume,” Bluder said. “Certainly getting any win is a good thing for us right now. But when you get them against a top 25 opponent, it means a lot, and you get them on the road, it means a lot.”