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Suddenly, Iowa women’s basketball is a force on the glass
No. 6 Hawkeyes have outrebounded 6 straight opponents, and not coincidentally, have a 6-game win streak. No. 8 Maryland visits in a Big Ten showdown Thursday at Carver
IOWA CITY — There’s a common theme in Iowa’s six-game winning streak, and it may surprise you.
For all of the hullabaloo surrounding Iowa’s fast-paced offense, the Hawkeyes have quietly become a quality rebounding outfit.
“Having Hannah (Stuelke) helps,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “Caitlin (Clark) is one of the best rebounding guards in the country, probably the best rebounding guard we’ve had since Kachine Alexander.
“Teams are worried about our transition offense, so they don’t attack the glass as much.”
Sixth-ranked Iowa has won the battle on the glass in all six games. In four of those games, it has been a double-digit margin, including plus-20 against then-No. 2 Ohio State last week.
The Hawkeyes (17-4 overall, 9-1 Big Ten) will need to be assertive on the boards — and everywhere else, for that matter — when they hook up with No. 8 Maryland (18-4, 9-2) at 7:30 Thursday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“They’re a really good team,” senior guard Molly Davis said. “They have a ton of great shooters. We’ve got to know their personnel.”
Only about 1,000 tickets remained as of Wednesday afternoon. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Coached by Cedar Rapids native Brenda Frese, Maryland has been the standard in the Big Ten since its arrival before the 2014-15 season. The Terrapins won six regular-season championships between 2015 and 2021.
Iowa broke through and shared the regular-season crown last year with Ohio State, and captured the tournament title.
“Obviously, Maryland has another tremendous team,” Bluder said. “I know how Brenda likes to play defense. That doesn’t change from year to year. Same scheme, different characters.
“They do a great job in the transfer portal. They attract kids, talented kids. These players have played at the highest level for four years.”
Iowa’s McKenna Warnock appears to be highly questionable Thursday. She still has not practiced or played since suffering a rib-cage injury Jan. 18 at Michigan State.
“There’s no update. I don’t know what (Thursday) holds. I just don’t know,” Bluder said.
Frese’s sister, Stacy, was on the same state-championship team at Cedar Rapids Washington as Stuelke’s mother, Joanna (Stuelke) Mantz, in 1995.
“(Brenda and I) talked a few times during recruiting,” Stuelke said. “She’s amazing ... a great coach.”
Despite playing a modest 12.4 minutes per game, Stuelke is fourth on the team in both points per game (7.1) and rebounds per game (4.4).
A year ago, she was playing against teams from Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Iowa City and Waterloo/Cedar Falls. Now she’s on national television regularly against some of the best competition in the country, and she’s holding her own.
“It’s crazy to think about,” she said.
Her presence has allowed Iowa to ring up a plus-6.6 advantage per game on the boards. Iowa is 14-1 when it outrebounds the competition, 3-3 when it doesn’t.
Diamond Miller, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, leads the Terrapins at 18.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
“Diamond ... she’s a big problem,” Davis said. “We’ve got to find help on her.”
Iowa is a half-game behind Big Ten-leading Indiana, with eight games to play. The Hawkeyes play Maryland twice and Indiana twice.
“We play a lot of big games yet,” Bluder said. “Here we are; let’s get used to it.”