IOWA CITY — When the Iowa Hawkeyes defend effectively, the coaches do push-ups.
If the Hawkeyes can slow Hallie Christofferson and tame Hilton Magic, it might be hand springs and cartwheels.
No. 21 Iowa looks to break serve in what has been a home-heavy women’s basketball series lately. The Hawkeyes (10-1) face No. 17 Iowa State (8-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hilton Coliseum.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Iowa point guard Samantha Logic. “It will be good to gauge where we are as a road team. We’re going to have to play well, really well.
“If we put a good game together, we believe we have a chance.”
The last eight voyages to Ames have been fruitless endeavors for the Hawkeyes, and Lisa Bluder is 0-7 at Hilton as the Iowa coach. The home team has won 11 of the last 12 games in the Iowa-ISU series.
Iowa will be dealing with an elite player, a quality team and a high-decibel environment. The Cyclones have played in front of 10,157 fans per game at Hilton this season.
“It’s one of the toughest places we play,” said senior Theairra Taylor. “Nebraska and Purdue are always tough, and Colorado was loud this year. But we’re pumped about going over there.”
Three Iowans are on the Hawkeyes roster, six for ISU.
Among the Cyclones’ in-staters is Christofferson, a 6-foot-3 senior forward from Exira whose 25.0 points per game ranks eighth in the nation.
It was Christofferson who sniffed back tears after Iowa’s 50-42 win last year at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“(It hurts) because it’s Iowa,” she said after the game. “There’s not much more to say.”
And it’s Christofferson who has the Hawkeyes’ full attention and admiration.
“She’s as good as anybody we’ll see all season,” Bluder said. “She can post up. She can shoot the 3. She can rebound. She’s a very tough matchup.”
Said Logic about Christofferson: “She’s a stud. We have to limit her.”
Limiting the opponents has its rewards for the Hawkeyes. For every point the Hawkeyes hold their foe below their season average, Bluder and her assistants complete one push-up at the following practice.
“That was (director of basketball operations) Abby Emmert’s great idea,” Bluder said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Sometimes, you just have to have some fun, and watching us do push-ups is fun for the players.”
Iowa freshman Ally Disterhoft strongly considered playing for the Cyclones.
“Those were the top two schools for me,” she said. “It was really close. The All-Iowa Attack (AAU) facility is right across the street from Hilton, and I’ve been there a lot of times.
“To get 10,000-12,000 fans for every women’s game, it’s incredible. We look forward to the opportunity of playing there. The best way to quiet it down is to play well, so the atmosphere won’t affect us.”
It’s not a secret that the relationship between Bluder and ISU Coach Bill Fennelly ranges somewhere between lukewarm and frosty. But Bluder did say this about Fennelly’s program Tuesday:
“When he took over, Iowa State was not a good program. It was non-existent. But he has made it a consistent winner and he has won over the fan base.”
Unlike last year’s grind, Thursday’s encounter figures to be filled with offense. Iowa averages 84.1 points per game and has gone over 95 on three straight occasions. ISU averages 82.1.
Five Hawkeyes are averaging in double figures, led by Melissa Dixon’s 16.0 points per game. Dixon has hit 28 of her last 55 3-point attempts.
Thursday’s contest is the first Iowa-ISU battle since 2010 in which both teams are ranked.