Iowa Women's Basketball

Iowa women's basketball: Here comes Rutgers, so here comes the pressure

Hawkeyes host a Scarlets Knights team that forces nearly 25 turnovers per game

Logan Cook (23) and Megan Meyer (11) were two key figures in Iowa's win over Western Illinois on Dec. 22, both scoring a
Logan Cook (23) and Megan Meyer (11) were two key figures in Iowa’s win over Western Illinois on Dec. 22, both scoring a career-high 13 points. The Hawkeyes host Rutgers on Thursday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Inhale. Exhale. Relax. The Iowa Hawkeyes know what’s coming when Rutgers arrives for Thursday’s Big Ten women’s basketball game.

Pressure. And physicality.

“They like to get up in your grill,” Kate Martin said. “We need to take a deep breath, relax, not go too crazy.”

Tipoff is 2 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, site of Iowa’s 40-game home win streak. Both teams are 5-1 overall, 1-1 Big Ten.

Led by former Iowa Coach C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers traditionally is a defensive menace, and this team is no different. The Scarlet Knights are allowing 51.7 points per game while forcing nearly 25 turnovers.

“With Rutgers, you’ve always got to keep your composure,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “You can’t get rushed into taking bad shots or making bad passes.

“You can’t have mental lapses, or they’ll make you pay.”

Monika Czinano said, “They’re good about flustering you. We’ve got to be ready, and keep our cool.”

The game is just Iowa’s second in the last 19 days, and it’s all Big Ten games from here on out, 18 of them.

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“We’re anxious to get back out there again,” Bluder said. “That’s a very good team we’re facing (Thursday).”

That’s because it’s a team that has more scoring punch, especially from outside.

Rutgers is shooting 38 percent from 3-point range and averaging 86 points per game.

“That hasn’t been the case in the past,” Bluder said.

The Hawkeyes will be back at full strength. McKenna Warnock missed the Western Illinois game due to a sprained ankle, but “is ready to go,” according to Bluder.

And if Iowa’s previous game is any indication, the bench appears to be getting longer, and better.

Already a key figure in the Hawkeyes’ rotation, Sharon Goodman posted 12 points and nine rebounds against Western Illinois.

That wasn’t a big surprise. But the output of Logan Cook (13 points, 5-for-5 from the field) and Megan Meyer (13 points). both career-highs ... yeah, that was unexpected, at least to those outside the program.

“Logan works so, so hard, every single day,” Czinano said. “Her role is so important to us. To see her blossom is amazing, and I’m excited to see it continue.”

Cook is third on the depth chart (behind Czinano and Goodman) at center, and also gives Bluder an option behind Warnock at power forward.

“That girl has worked hard,” Bluder said. “She has stayed positive and focused. If she can back up the 4 and 5, it gives her extra opportunities for playing time.”

As for Meyer, and her outside-shooting capability?

“When she’s on a roll, look out,” Bluder said.

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Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is the Big Ten scoring leader at 27.0 point per game; Rutgers’ Arella Guirantes is third at 23.0.

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

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