IOWA CITY — Gone is Kelsey Mitchell, along with other key players. In their place, in the starting lineup, two freshmen and three graduate transfers.
The Ohio State Buckeyes have gone from Big Ten champion to Big Ten mystery.
“That’s a good way to describe them,” Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said. “They have so many new faces.”
Bluder takes the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes (18-5 overall, 9-3 Big Ten) to Columbus for a Sunday encounter with the Buckeyes (10-11, 6-6). Tipoff is 3 p.m. (Iowa time) at Value City Arena.
As you’d expect, it took some time for all of Ohio State’s newcomers to mesh. The Buckeyes started 4-8, but have won six of their last nine games. The warm spell began with home wins over Indiana and Michigan State, both of which were ranked at the time.
“They’re getting better as time goes on,” Bluder said.
Carly Santoro (a grad-transfer guard from Bowling Green) and Dorka Juhasz (a freshman post from Hungary) are averaging 11.8 points apiece to lead the team.
Iowa defeated No. 21 Michigan State, 86-71, Thursday, its seventh victory in eight games. The Hawkeyes overcame the absence of Makenzie Meyer (hyperextended knee) and the first-half foul trouble of her replacement in the starting lineup, Alexis Sevillian.
Bluder said Meyer remains “day-to-day. The doctors make the call on that. I would say she’s possible (Sunday), but probably more like doubtful.”
The performances of Amanda Ollinger and Tomi Taiwo softened the blow Thursday.
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“I’m really happy with Tomi,” Bluder said. “She had some really good minutes.
“Amanda, she shifted back and forth between the 3 and 4 for us, and that’s harder than it sounds.”
A junior from Cedar Rapids, Ollinger is shooting 65 percent from the field in Big Ten play.
“She’s not taking bad shots; she’s not forcing anything,” Bluder said. “She has that length that gives us a different look.”
Iowa, of course, will have a big advantage in the paint with Megan Gustafson, who rang up 41 points and 14 rebounds on Michigan State.
“I’m sure their freshman post (Juhasz) hasn’t seen anything like Megan before,” Bluder said. “I don’t know how they’ll try to defend us. We’ll have to evaluate after the first few possessions.”
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