116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Future prospects aren’t the only thing the University of Iowa women’s basketball coaching staff has been recruiting lately.
“We need to play. We need games,” head coach Lisa Bluder said Friday.
You can’t play games if you don’t have opponents. And the Hawkeyes haven’t had either lately.
So they’re grateful that the Evansville Purple Aces came through, and are coming to town.
A late replacement, Evansville (6-4) will face the 21st-ranked Hawkeyes (6-3) in a non-conference game at 11 a.m. Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye.
“Any time we get to play, to have the opportunity to compete ... I’m excited,” Caitlin Clark said.
Iowa has had five games scratched this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Hawkeyes’ own outbreak cost them three games in November. Then, Penn State and Illinois had to back out of Big Ten games this week.
But Evansville came through. The Purple Aces play at Drake in a Missouri Valley Conference game at 2 p.m. Saturday, will bus to Iowa City and play the Hawkeyes 21 hours later before continuing their trip back to southern Indiana.
Iowa, meanwhile, will be playing its first game since a 74-73 loss to IUPUI on Dec. 21.
“When we found out Illinois wouldn’t be able to play (Sunday), we checked on everybody else that had cancellations,” Bluder said. “We tried several schools, and Evansville said they would.
“We’re thankful to Evansville, and we’re thankful to our administration for backing us.”
All game tickets and parking passes previously issued for Illinois-Iowa will be valid for Sunday’s game. Fans still looking to purchase tickets are encouraged to purchase online.
As discombobulated as last year was, Bluder said this season has been worse.
“To have that carrot taken away from you, time and time again, it’s amazing how resilient the players have been,” she said. “They’re probably more resilient than the coaches, who are pulling their hair out eight now.
“(Staff consultant) Jenni Fitzgerald has done so many scouts, and she’s had to tear them up.”
Clark said, “I wouldn’t have thought this would be an issue, but it’s kind of the world we live in right now.”
Five Big Ten games were scheduled for Thursday. Four were called off.
After four days away from each other through Christmas break, the Hawkeyes reconvened Sunday and have spent much of their time together scrimmaging.
Clark needs three points to reach the 1,000-point mark for her young career. She will be playing her 40th game Sunday.
“Any time you reach a milestone, it’s special,” she said. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates. And this system shows what I can do. It puts me in position to show my skill set.”