IOWA CITY — A business-and-pleasure women’s basketball trip is strictly business now.
Mechanical issues with their airplane set the departure back a day for the Iowa Hawkeyes. They had planned to do some sightseeing, including the viewing of the national monuments in Washington, D.C., plus a VIP tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
It’s all basketball now, and the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes (14-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) will have enough on their plate in that regard. They’ll face No. 13 Maryland (13-2, 2-0) at 5 p.m. (Iowa time) Thursday at the Xfinity Center, College Park, Md.
Maryland has been the jewel of the Big Ten since its arrival, and though the Terrapins were zapped by graduation after last season, they’re still a force under Cedar Rapids native Brenda Frese.
“They’ve got seven averaging in double figures in scoring, and they have nine averaging double figures in minutes,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “So they’re playing a lot of bodies.”
And they have been beating up on some folks. The Terrapins have gone over the 100-point mark four times in their current 11-game win streak.
“I don’t want to take anything away from them, because they’re an excellent team,” Bluder said. “But they’ve played against some teams that they have beaten really badly.”
On the other hand, Maryland’s two losses are to defending NCAA champion South Carolina and No. 1 Connecticut.
The Hawkeyes counter with a short-handed lineup that continues to get the job done. Bluder employed mostly a seven-player rotation in Big Ten wins over Wisconsin and Michigan.
Iowa has passed the halfway mark of the regular season, and is gaining national attention. ESPN.com’s Charlie Creme considers the Hawkeyes one of the nation’s five biggest surprises, and his latest bracketology projects them as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“I want us to feel good about ourselves, but at the same time, there’s a lot of basketball left,” Bluder said. “A lot of hard basketball left.”
Megan Gustafson earned her fifth Big Ten player-of-the-week honor Tuesday after posting 38 points and 27 rebounds in the last two games.
“I’ve run out of ways to describe her,” Bluder said of the junior post. “I’m so thankful I get to coach her. The type of person she is, so humble and gracious ... I wish everyone could get to know her. She’s amazing.”
Makenzie Meyer is about a week away from being re-evaluated on the progress of her broken left hand.
In a best-case scenario, there’s a chance she could be fitted for a cast in which she could play at that time.
“She’s probably going to have to play with protection for quite some time,” Bluder said. “And that could hamper her game.”
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