Iowa Women's Basketball

Iowa women's basketball returns to action with Northwestern challenge Thursday

Wildcats prevailed 77-67 on Jan. 9 despite 13-of-14 gem from Monika Czinano

Iowa's Monika Czinano (25) reaches for a rebound against Purdue's Karissa McLaughlin (1) and Tamara Farquhar (25) in the
Iowa’s Monika Czinano (25) reaches for a rebound against Purdue’s Karissa McLaughlin (1) and Tamara Farquhar (25) in the Hawkeyes’ win Jan. 18. The Hawkeyes host Northwestern Thursday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — For those of us that didn’t know, The Legend of Zelda is “a high fantasy action-adventure video game,” according to Wikipedia.

That’s one thing that has kept Monika Czinano occupied during the Iowa Hawkeyes’ recent idle stretch.

“I’ve had a lot of free time,” she said Wednesday. “Schoolwork has taken up a big part of it. I’ve done a lot of crocheting, some embroidery. I’m working on this thing with flowers on it. It’s out in my car. It’s really cool.”

But now, basketball is back, and Zelda is on the back burner.

The Hawkeyes (9-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) face their first competition in 10 days, and it’s a challenge — 23rd-ranked Northwestern (8-3, 6-3) visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 5 p.m. Thursday (BTN).

Don’t mind Czinano for licking her chops. The 6-foot-3 junior post nailed 13 of 14 shots in Iowa’s 77-67 loss at Evanston on Jan. 9.

“Of their starting five, their tallest player is 6 feet. We’ll definitely have an advantage at the 4 and 5 positions,” she said.

While Czinano sparkled in the previous meeting, freshman guard Caitlin Clark struggled, scoring a season-low eight points.

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“They were glued to me all game,” Clark recalled. “It’s going to be the same thing (Thursday).”

The day after the loss, Clark and Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder huddled and watched tape.

“Caitlin is really good about watching film,” Bluder said. “I think she learned a lot from that game. They did a good job isolating her.

“She had a tough game. She’s a freshman, She’s going to have ebbs and flows. I’m surprised she hasn’t had more of them.”

Iowa’s last game was Jan. 18, an 87-81 come-from-behind win against Purdue.

Since then, the Hawkeyes have had games postponed at Maryland (Jan. 21) and at Rutgers (Sunday).

Iowa was scheduled to fly into Washington, D.C., the day before the Maryland game, which coincided with Inauguration Day. But Bluder — citing safety — made the decision to postpone.

“The university was great about it, but I knew we would have their full support,” Bluder said. “Maryland was terrific about it.

“I haven’t paid attention to other feedback. I don’t care what anybody else thinks.”

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The Rutgers game was postponed due to COVID-19 measures surrounding the Scarlet Knights’ program.

Neither the Maryland nor Rutgers games have been rescheduled, but Iowa picked up a new date for Ohio State, Feb. 4 at Columbus.

Bluder gave her team Friday and Saturday off.

“Last week, they scrimmaged a lot ... tried to keep sharp and keep in shape,” she said.

Then, the focus shifted to Northwestern.

“They’re a little different from everybody else because of their matchup zone,” Bluder said.

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

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