Iowa Women's Basketball

2019-20 Iowa women's basketball mission: 'Prove people wrong'

With Megan Gustafson departed, the perimeter becomes the focal point

IOWA CITY — The pendulum has swung for the Iowa women’s basketball team.

Instead of a post-dominated attack (remember Megan Gustafson?), the Hawkeyes will be perimeter-oriented.

Instead of projected Big Ten contenders, the Hawkeyes are underdogs.

“We like that position,” senior guard Makenzie Meyer said at Iowa’s preseason media event Thursday morning at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Yeah, we lost some great players. But we have some new weapons, too.”

A year after winning the Big Ten tournament championship (they were second to Maryland in the regular-season race) and advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, the Hawkeyes (29-7 in 2018-19) are nowhere to be found in the Big Ten’s preseason top five by the coaches or the media.

“This team has a mission to prove people wrong,” said Coach Lisa Bluder, now in her 20th season at Iowa and her 35th overall. “They’ve kind of got a chip on their shoulder. We know what we lost, but this team is not ready to throw up the white flag.”

Gone is Gustafson, the 2019 consensus national player of the year and the holder of virtually all of the school’s scoring, rebounding and field-goal-accuracy records. Hannah Stewart and Tania Davis have departed, too. Their absence is glaring both statistically and in terms of leadership.

Iowa will move on around the senior guard duo of Kathleen Doyle and Meyer.

Doyle is a unanimous preseason all-Big Ten player, and was feted as a third-team All-American by Street & Smith’s preseason publication.

She played on Team USA’s silver-medal Pan-American squad over the summer. There, she got to know some of her Big Ten rivals.

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“When we were off the court, they said, ‘You’re actually pretty nice,’” the fiery Doyle said. “When the other team doesn’t like you, you’re probably doing something right. I’m just a competitor. My high energy probably rubs some people the wrong way.”

Meyer called Doyle “the glue of our team. She’s so smart on the court. But if we weren’t on the same team, I definitely wouldn’t like her. We’ve told her that, and she takes it as a compliment.”

So, who will supplement the veteran guards? A strong-bodied, physical sophomore, Monika Czinano will try to lessen the impact of Gustafson’s departure. Comparisons to the former star, though, aren’t fair, according to Bluder.

“Please do (Czinano) the favor of not comparing her to Megan,” Bluder said. “She’s not Megan, she’s her own person. She’s better in some things than Megan was. But I think that’s going to be something that really is holding her down all year if people keep trying to make that comparison because they’re two different people.”

Former Linn-Mar prep Amanda Ollinger, now a senior, had a breakthrough on the Hawkeyes’ summer tour of Spain, picking up a pair of double-doubles. She’s battling some back issues now. Bluder said that Ollinger would not be in the lineup if the Hawkeyes’ first game was today, but “in two weeks, she will.”

The other starter probably will be junior Alexis Sevillian or redshirt freshman Kate Martin.

With the exception of Czinano, virtually all of the Hawkeyes will be called upon to contribute from long range more consistently than last year.

“We’d like to be up in that 35- to 37-percent range from 3-point,” Meyer said.

Iowa opens with an exhibition Nov. 3 against Winona State, then begins the regular season at home Nov. 7 against Florida Atlantic.

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2019-20 Iowa women’s basketball

Coach: Lisa Bluder, 20th season at Iowa (396-217), 35th season overall (752-359)

Last year: 29-7 overall, 14-4 Big Ten, Big Ten tournament champion, NCAA Elite Eight

Top returners: G Kathleen Doyle, G Makenzie Meyer, G Alexis Sevillian

Key losses: C Megan Gustafson, F Hannah Stewart, G Tania Davis

Newcomers to watch: G Kate Martin, G Gabbie Marshall, G/F McKenna Warnock, F Megan Meyer

Schedule highlights:

Nov. 3 — Winona State (exhibition), 2 p.m.

Nov. 7 — Florida Atlantic (regular-season opener), 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 17 — at Northern Iowa, 2 p.m.

Dec. 4 — Clemson (ACC/Big Ten Challenge), 8 p.m.

Dec. 11 — at Iowa State, 7 p.m.

Dec. 21 — Drake, 6 p.m.

Dec. 28 — at Nebraska (Big Ten opener), 1 p.m.

Dec. 31 — Illinois (Big Ten home opener), 2 p.m.

Jan. 9 — Maryland, 7 p.m.

March 4-8 — Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis

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

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