Iowa's degree of difficulty rises when Michigan comes calling

Women's basketball: It's a battle of the Big Ten's best in field goal accuracy, prevention

Iowa's Amanda Ollinger (43) made her first start Thursday, recording eight rebounds in a 56-46 win over Wisconsin. The 21st-ranked Hawkeyes host No. 19 Michigan on Sunday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa's Amanda Ollinger (43) made her first start Thursday, recording eight rebounds in a 56-46 win over Wisconsin. The 21st-ranked Hawkeyes host No. 19 Michigan on Sunday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When it comes down to it, there are really two key areas of basketball.

Scoring. And stopping.

And in those two facets, no women’s teams in the Big Ten do it better than Iowa and Michigan.

The 21st-ranked Hawkeyes (13-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) are tops in the league in field-goal percentage (.505) and field-goal defense (.337). No. 19 Michigan (12-2, 1-0) is second in both categories, at .483 and .345, respectively.

They collide at 3 p.m. Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“We’re just trying to win games,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “Every game is a challenge, and this will be an incredibly tough game.

“We’re just trying to make adjustments on the fly.”

That’s the new normal for the Hawkeyes, who are without Tania Davis (torn left ACL) for the season and Makenzie Meyer (broken left hand) for the foreseeable future.

Iowa jumped all over Wisconsin early and held on for a 56-46 conference-opening win Thursday at Madison. But let’s face it: Wisconsin isn’t Michigan.

“The competition level gets a lot higher,” Bluder acknowledged.

A third-place Big Ten finish last year somehow wasn’t enough for the Wolverines to earn an NCAA tournament berth. They made the most of the WNIT, winning the championship. And they’ve picked up this season where they left off.

Michigan got out to a 29-8 first-quarter lead and whipped Penn State, 89-69, Thursday to open league play.

Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty leads the Wolverines at 22.7 points per game.

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“She’s one of the best in the conference,” Bluder said. “She gets overshadowed a bit by (Ohio State’s) Kelsey Mitchell. But she’s as good a scorer as anybody. She has a variety of ways to get open and shoots the 3-pointer really quickly.”

Junior Hallie Thome is a nice complement inside at 16.6 points per game. Her field-goal rate (.655) is second-best in the league, behind Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (.679).

Gustafson picked up her 13th double-double of the season Thursday — 21 points (including 11 of 11 from the line) and 16 rebounds.

Much of the magnifying glass was on Amanda Ollinger and Carly Mohns, who shared the role of softening the loss of Meyer on the wing.

“Once we got to the hotel (Wednesday night), we walked through stuff with Carly and got her familiar with playing outside,” Bluder said. “Amanda ... she did well, a lot of rebounds. We’re a better rebounding team with either of them in the lineup.”

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

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