116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The Iowa Hawkeyes’ last two visits to the McLeod Center have been memorable, all right.
For all the wrong reasons.
Four years ago, they lost Tania Davis to a season-ending knee injury.
Two years ago, they got scorched by host UNI, 88-66.
They’ll try to avoid similar pitfalls when they return to Cedar Falls for their first intrastate women’s basketball of the season. Tipoff is 2 p.m. Sunday (ESPN+).
“I’m excited to go back,” senior post Monika Czinano said Thursday, shortly after the ninth-ranked Hawkeyes (2-0) throttled Samford, 91-54.
“This is a new team with a new defensive philosophy. We want to show what we can do, how good we really are.”
So far, they’ve been plenty good, at both ends of the floor. The Hawkeyes have surrendered 52.0 points per game so far, after allowing more than 80 per game last season.
“We’re more active,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “We’re applying more pressure on the ball. We’ve become more aware of how important defense is, and it shows.”
UNI (1-0) opened with a 63-54 win at Saint Louis on Tuesday. The Panthers’ 15-player roster features 13 Iowans.
“They’re a good team,” Bluder said. “A lot of our players have played with a lot of theirs (in AAU ball). There are a lot of bragging rights on the line. They will give us a lot of challenges.”
Karli Rucker scored 17 points in the Panthers’ opening win. Bre Gunnells added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
If the first two games are any indication, Iowa has a wealth of depth. Caitlin Clark (22.5 points per game) and Czinano (17.0) are the headliners, of course, but six others are adding at least 6 points per game.
“I feel comfortable going to our bench,” Bluder said. “We have so many weapons on this team, and that gives me comfort as a coach.”
Bluder played at UNI and needs three wins to join an exclusive club. She has 797 victories in 38 years as a head coach.
Only 17 women’s college coaches have won more.