IOWA CITY — The final stretch is a sprint.
Iowa concludes its women’s basketball regular season with a five-game, 12-day push that features three battles with ranked teams, including a noon (Central time) contest Tuesday at No. 8 Maryland (BTN).
“There’s really no way to manage our legs,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “We have a lot of travel coming up.”
A lot of travel, and a lot of physical wear.
The Hawkeyes (12-6 overall, 8-6 Big Ten) originally were scheduled to play at Maryland (16-2, 12-1) on Jan. 21, but Bluder canceled that trip because it coincided with the inauguration of President Biden, and the civil unrest in Washington, D.C., that accompanied it.
A makeup date was established late last week, and it took some work.
Iowa’s game at Indiana, originally scheduled for last Sunday, was moved to March 3.
So the Hawkeyes flew out of Iowa on Monday, play at Maryland at noon Tuesday, fly back afterward, then have one day of preparation before Thursday’s home game against No. 12 Michigan.
Then it’s Sunday at Wisconsin, March 3 at No. 11 Indiana, then the regular-season finale March 6 at home against Nebraska.
Maryland, Indiana and Michigan are the top three teams in the Big Ten standings.
“It’s going to be a tough stretch,” junior guard Tomi Taiwo said. “We’ll stay off our feet as much as we can, watch film.”
Regardless of circumstance, Maryland is going to be a handful, especially on the road. The Terrapins lead the nation in scoring, at 92.4 points per game (Iowa is second at 87.9), with five players averaging in double figures.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“Obviously, they’re very balanced, and that presents a challenge,” said Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, who earned Big Ten freshman-of-the-week honors for the 11th time Monday. “It’s going to come down to who separates themselves, whether it’s defensively or something else.”
Clark was Miss Iowa Basketball 2020 for West Des Moines Dowling. She’ll renew acquaintances with 2019 winner Zoe Young of West Des Moines Valley, a redshirt-freshman reserve for the Terrapins.
“We had quite the battles in high school,” Clark said. “Not just with Zoe, but with Valley in general.”
The Hawkeyes are coming off back-to-back wins, at Nebraska and at home against Penn State.
“Our morale is good,” Bluder said. “We’re staying positive and focused.”
Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, a Cedar Rapids Washington alum, recently reached the 500-win plateau for her career.
Comments: (319) 368-8857; firstname.lastname@example.org