Iowa women's basketball hoping a February rush is in the cards

Hawkeyes seek to build on 2-game win streak Thursday vs. Penn State

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle (22) drives to the basket against Nebraska on Jan. 28. The Hawkeyes have won two straight games since that loss, and host Penn State on Thursday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle (22) drives to the basket against Nebraska on Jan. 28. The Hawkeyes have won two straight games since that loss, and host Penn State on Thursday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When things were at their worst, barely a week ago, the Iowa women’s basketball coaching staff assembled a video.

Not of turnovers. Not of missed shots.

“We showed highlights of the things we were doing well,” Lisa Bluder said. “And I give a lot of credit to our captains (Hannah Stewart and Kathleen Doyle). They’re great leaders and stayed optimistic. That sets the tone for everybody.”

And suddenly, the Hawkeyes snapped out of their funk and stepped away from the NCAA tournament bubble, at least for now.

If a loss to Nebraska on Jan. 28 was rock bottom, Iowa’s stock rebounded immediately after the crash. The Hawkeyes (18-6 overall, 6-5 Big Ten) followed with victories at Michigan State and at home against Minnesota.

They’ll try to make it 3-0 for February when they host Penn State (14-10, 5-6) Thursday. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“We’re definitely feeling better than we were a week ago,” Doyle said. “Winning is more fun than losing.”

If so, there hasn’t been much fun for the Hawkeyes recently against Penn State. The Lady Lions have beaten Iowa in eight of the last 10 meetings, including a 71-58 verdict last year at University Park.

“It’s another extremely good team,” Bluder said. “They’re an athletic, quick team.”

Megan Gustafson said, “Their strength is their guards. They’re good shooters. (Teniya) Page ... she’s really good.”

News flash: So is Gustafson, now a seven-time Big Ten player of the week. She is a nominee for the Lisa Leslie Award, which honors the best center in the country.

Gustafson ranks in the top eight nationally in nine different categories, ranking No. 1 in field goals made (228) and points (588). She is second in double-doubles (22), points per game (24.5), field-goal percentage (.655) and rebounds (303).

In typical fashion, she deflected attention toward her teammates Wednesday, but said, “I’m really honored to be compared to some of the best players in the nation.”

On the other hand ...

“Our sole focus is to get to the NCAA (tournament). I haven’t been there in my first two years, so that’s the ultimate goal.”

All of the Hawkeyes’ five remaining games (three at home, two on the road) are against teams behind or even with them in the Big Ten standings. The potential is there for a sprint to the finish.

“We have the potential to win out,” Gustafson said. “We can’t count anyone out. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot, but we’re going to give ours, too.”

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

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