Iowa women's basketball seeks an in-state sweep

With Tania Davis sidelined, No. 25 Iowa hosts Drake

Iowa's Megan Gustafson (10) and Drake's Becca Jonas (35) go after a rebound in last year's game in Des Moines, an 81-76 Drake win. The 25th-ranked Hawkeyes host the Bulldogs on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa's Megan Gustafson (10) and Drake's Becca Jonas (35) go after a rebound in last year's game in Des Moines, an 81-76 Drake win. The 25th-ranked Hawkeyes host the Bulldogs on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The storyline for this game traditionally goes like this:

“Lisa Bluder takes her current team up against a team from the school she used to coach.”

Or maybe this:

“Jennie Baranczyk goes up against her alma mater, and her former coach.”

In time, those storylines have become stale and irrelevant. It has been almost 18 years since Bluder left Drake to coach at Iowa. Thirteen years have passed since Baranczyk (formerly Jennie Lillis) graduated from Iowa.

The storyline is this: No. 25 Iowa (11-1) plays its first game since the injury of Tania Davis; tipoff against Drake (5-6) is 7 p.m. Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“It’s hard to shift to Drake, but we know we have to,” Bluder said Tuesday.

The Hawkeyes can wrap up an undisputed mythical state championship with a win. If Drake prevails, the Bulldogs have the inside track, depending on their future fate against Northern Iowa in Missouri Valley Conference play.

“Drake is a high-octane offensive team. They score at a high rate (84.5 points per game),” Bluder said. “They run a unique offense and a matchup zone defense. Sara Rhine is excellent as a transition power forward.”

And that was pretty much the entire scouting report. The rest of Tuesday’s press conference revolved around Davis, who was injured against Northern Iowa on Sunday. Tests revealed a torn ACL and medial meniscus in her left knee.

“The first element was shock,” Bluder said. “We were numb. We couldn’t believe it.”

Davis’ season is over, and Alexis Sevillian will take her place in the starting lineup.

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“Lexi is a great player,” said Kathleen Doyle, who will split time with Sevillian at point guard. “She deserves everything that comes our way. We’re all confident in her, and she’s confident in herself.”

Megan Gustafson said, “We’re trying to stay optimistic. We know Lexi is going to do a phenomenal job. And like Chase (Coley) said, we’ve gained a new coach (with Davis on the bench).”

Drake ran through the MVC without a scratch and reached the NCAA tournament last year in a 28-5 campaign, but lost stars Lizzy Wendell and Caitlin Ingle to graduation.

The Bulldogs’ last three losses came against Creighton (in four overtimes), Nebraska (two overtimes) and South Dakota State.

“Look at who they’ve played. They’ve played a really good schedule,” Bluder said.

Drake beat the Hawkeyes last year in Des Moines, 81-76. The Bulldogs’ roster includes former area players Nicole Miller of North Linn (2015 Miss Iowa Basketball) and Paige Greiner of Williamsburg.

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

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