IOWA CITY — In terms of sheer watchability, this should be high on the totem pole.
“It’s going to be a really fun brand of basketball,” Kathleen Doyle said. “Both teams play great team basketball. It’s something fans should enjoy.”
No. 15 Iowa (8-2) wraps up its non-conference women’s basketball schedule Friday with its final intrastate game of the season. Tipoff with Drake (8-3) is 6 p.m. at the Knapp Center in Des Moines.
A near-sellout is expected.
“I can’t wait to get into that environment,” Tania Davis said. “I’m looking forward to it. Both teams love to share the ball. It’s going to be a challenge for us, and we’re up for a challenge.”
In the current NCAA statistics, Drake ranks No. 2 nationally with 22.3 assists per game. Iowa is No. 3 at 22.2.
Not coincidentally, the Hawkeyes average 84.2 points per game, Drake 80.1.
“I think it goes back to recruiting,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “The type of young women we recruit ... are they team players? Our players are, and Drake recruits good young women, too.”
Don’t be surprised if this resembles the 2014 game in Des Moines, in which the Hawkeyes prevailed, 100-98.
“This Drake team is really, really good,” Bluder said. “Sara Rhine might be one of the most versatile post players we’ll see all year long. Becca Hittner can hurt you in so many ways.”
The Knapp Center holds a capacity of 7,152, and less than 1,000 tickets remained as of midweek.
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“To play in that atmosphere is what we want,” Bluder said. “It’s a tough place to play because of the close confines, and with the Big Ten season coming up, we’ve got to get used to it.”
“There’s nothing like silencing a crowd,” Doyle said.
Led by Rhine (18.9 points, 8.3 rebounds per game) and Hittner (16.5 ppg), Drake has more depth than the Hawkeyes.
“They’re going to be very tough to guard, 1-through-5, and their bench players can shoot,” Davis said. “They’re always moving offensively and find the open person.”
But, like just about everybody else, the Bulldogs will struggle to contain Iowa’s Megan Gustafson, who averages 24.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per game and shoots 75.4 percent from the field, a figure that leads the nation.
Gustafson heads into the game with 2,050 career points, which ranks No. 3 all-time at Iowa behind Ally Disterhoft (2,102) and Cindy Haugejorde (2,059).
“We lost the last time we went over there (81-76) two years ago,” Gustafson said. “It wasn’t very fun, and we don’t plan to do it again.”
That was Drake’s only win against the Hawkeyes in the last 16 meetings. Iowa prevailed last year, 79-66, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It has been 19 years since Bluder left Drake to coach the Hawkeyes. “It’s still unusual for us to go over there,” she said. “Jan (Jensen’s) jersey hangs from the rafters there. We broke ground on the Knapp Center.”
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