Iowa Women's Basketball

Iowa opens Big Ten women's basketball schedule on the road, again

Hawkeyes begin '18-game grind' Saturday at Nebraska

Iowa's Amanda Ollinger (43) steals the ball from Iowa State's Kristin Scott (25) in the Hawkeyes' win Dec. 11. Ollinger
Iowa’s Amanda Ollinger (43) steals the ball from Iowa State’s Kristin Scott (25) in the Hawkeyes’ win Dec. 11. Ollinger likely will get the assignment on Nebraska’s Ashtyn Veerbeek when the teams meet Saturday at Lincoln, Neb. It is the fifth straight year the Hawkeyes are opening their Big Ten slate on the road. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Lincoln. Champaign. Madison. East Lansing.

And now, Lincoln again.

For the fifth consecutive year, Iowa opens its Big Ten women’s basketball season away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes (9-2 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) face Nebraska (10-1, 0-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln.

“Five years in a row? I didn’t realize that,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said Friday. “We end on the road too, and I really don’t like that.”

The Hawkeyes have experienced mixed fortunes in their previous four Big Ten road openers, winning at Nebraska (2015) and Wisconsin (2017) and losing at Illinois (2016) and Michigan State (2018).

“Playing Nebraska on the road ... it’s no easy task,” Bluder said. “Of course, there are no easy tasks in the Big Ten.

“It’s an 18-game grind. There used to be some gimmes in this league, but it’s just not that way any more.”

Last year’s regular-season champion, Maryland appears to be the favorite again. Illinois and Wisconsin probably will languish near the bottom again, along with Penn State.

Projecting the 2019-20 Big Ten women's basketball standings

That leaves a large cluster of teams that could finish anywhere from second to 11th. Iowa is in that mix. And so is Nebraska.

“A lot of us are going to be competing for NCAA at-large bids,” said Bluder, whose team won the Big Ten tournament and reached the Elite Eight last year.

The Hawkeyes enter with a four-game win streak and an RPI of 15.

"I’m happy at 9-2,” Bluder said. “I’ve seen great growth in this team, and we’re going to continue to see growth.

“We have developed a good inside-outside game and we’re passing really well. Defense still is an area in which there’s room to grow.”

Nebraska has won five straight games, and seven Huskers are averaging between 7.6 and 14.7 points per game. The leader is Leigha Brown, who comes off the bench.

Six-foot-5 Kate Cain (10.1 ppg) will be a test inside for Iowa’s Monika Czinano, and Amanda Ollinger probably will draw the assignment against Ashtyn Veerbeek, a sophomore from Western Christian who averages 9.3 ppg.

“Not many people have a matchup for Veerbeek, but with Amanda, we do,” Bluder said.

Czinano leads the nation in field-goal accuracy, at 72.3 percent.

The Hawkeyes play their first Big Ten home game Tuesday afternoon against Illinois.

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

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