IOWA CITY — There were not enough bleachers to handle the overflow crowd.
The University of Iowa women’s basketball team opened the doors to its practice court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena Friday night, which allowed its fans to view a live intersquad scrimmage for the first time.
If the turnout for what the program called the “Sneak Peek Summer Scrimmage” was any indication, anticipation for the coming season is high.
“It’s amazing being able to see this,” Iowa senior Megan Gustafson said. “I did not think that there were would be so many people here. ... It was so much fun and it was standing room only tonight so that was really special to see.”
Many fans were excited to see Gustafson embark on her final season with the Hawkeyes. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and second team All-American selection leads an experienced group that returns four starters and nearly 87 percent of its scoring from a 24-8 team that reached the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re really excited,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “Internally, it’s really big. We believe. These kids really believe. One preseason poll had us ranked 17th and they were kind of mad. And to me, that shows this is awesome. ... I love that kind of attitude with them. I really believe that they think the sky is the limit for them.”
Bluder praised the offseason improvement of 6-foot-2 senior Hannah Stewart, who is expected to slide into the post position that was vacated by the graduation of Chase Coley and form an imposing front line alongside the 6-foot-3 Gustafson.
“I expect great things out of Hannah this year,” Bluder said. “It is just getting comfortable. Being on the floor more. Now she knows she belongs. I think her first couple of years she doubted herself and had some confidence things. Now she knows she belongs.”
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Unofficially, Stewart scored 22 points for the Gold Team, while Gustafson chipped in 14 first-half points. At halftime, Gustafson flipped to the Black Team and scored 12 more.
No team scores were kept.
The Friday scrimmage date was significant in that it was the first day back for junior guard Kathleen Doyle, who spent six weeks studying in Spain. Also, it was the last day before Gustafson and Stewart depart for Ohio to practice with Athletes in Action before traveling to Brazil to represent Team USA.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Gustafson said. “It’s something that is real important to both of us, representing God and trusting in him. We’re going to go down there together and train and really get to work together again.”
Senior guard Tania Davis did not play as she continues to rehabilitate a second knee injury that ended her 2017-18 season after 12 games. While she is expected to be ready once fall practices begin, incoming freshman Kate Martin will redshirt as she recovers from her own knee injury.
The other three incoming freshmen — Logan Cook, Monika Czinano and Tomi Taiwo — could potentially all play this season. Bluder praised the length, versatility and work ethic of Cook — who helped Iowa City West win a state championship in March — and is debating on whether to play her at guard or forward.
“Trying to work as hard as possible,” Cook said. “Trying to get stronger in the weight room, conditioned well. Just trying to get bigger because these girls are really tough. It’s a big adjustment, a tough adjustment, but it’s good.”
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