Hawkeye Challenge is a challenge indeed for Iowa women's basketball

Iowa welcomes three 2017 NCAA teams, starting with Quinnipiac on Friday

Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder and forward Megan Gustafson react to a 3-point basket against Minnesota State-Moorhead in Sunday’s exhibition women’s basketball game. The Hawkeyes face Quinnipiac in the first round of the Hawkeye Challenge on Friday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder and forward Megan Gustafson react to a 3-point basket against Minnesota State-Moorhead in Sunday’s exhibition women’s basketball game. The Hawkeyes face Quinnipiac in the first round of the Hawkeye Challenge on Friday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Hawkeye Challenge women’s basketball tournament isn’t exactly the host team and three pushovers.

Anything but.

In fact, Iowa is the only team of the four that didn’t make the NCAA tournament last year.

The Hawkeyes open the season Friday against 2017 NCAA darling Quinnipiac in a Challenge semifinal. Tipoff is 5 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

No. 16 Missouri faces Western Kentucky in the other game, at 2:30.

Quinnipiac (29-7 last year) reached the Sweet 16 with wins over Marquette and Miami (Fla.) before bowing out against eventual national champion South Carolina.

Missouri (22-11) reached the second round; Western Kentucky (27-7) qualified and lost a competitive first-round game at Ohio State.

Iowa is coming off a 20-14 campaign and reached the WNIT quarterfinals. It was the Hawkeyes’ second straight WNIT appearance.

The Hawkeyes downed Minnesota State-Moorhead, 85-56, in an exhibition game Sunday. Junior Megan Gustafson scored 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor.

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But the big news was the return of point guard Tania Davis, who suffered a torn ACL last February. Davis played 28 minutes, scoring 12 points.

Mizzou is coached by Cedar Rapids native Robin (Becker) Pingeton, who played for Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder at St. Ambrose.

Regardless of outcome Friday, the Hawkeyes will play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Iowa’s first win this season will mark the 700th of Bluder’s career.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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