IOWA CITY — One of the most underappreciated — and apparently, unorthodox — facets of McKenna Warnock’s game is her passing.
“She’s a remarkably good passer,” Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said. “I have to giggle sometimes. They’re not always the prettiest passes, but they get there.”
A versatile sophomore, Warnock quickly is developing into one of the Hawkeyes’ most valuable pieces. She was at her best at the end of the Drake game Wednesday, scoring 15 fourth-quarter points as Iowa rallied for a 103-97 victory.
Next up is Wisconsin; tipoff is 2 p.m. Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. And Warnock will be ready and motivated.
“I’ve very excited to play my hometown team,” she said.
Two long streaks are on the line for the Hawkeyes (2-0) in their Big Ten opener. They have won 37 straight games at Carver, and they have vanquished the Badgers 22 consecutive times.
Iowa swept a pair of games last year that couldn’t have been any more different.
At the Kohl Center, the Hawkeyes rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit to escape, 85-78. Then, in the comfy confines of Carver, Iowa rolled, 97-71. And Warnock, who grew up a half-hour away from Madison, played a major role, scoring 20 points.
Through two games this season, Warnock is averaging 17 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
“I’ve created my own identity a little more this year,” she said. “I’ve gotten bigger and developed the mental capacity to know what I’m doing all the time on the court.
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“There’s definitely a difference. I feel more calm and comfortable. From Day 1, coaches have told me to get after it. Rebounds are a really big focal point.”
And despite the “giggles” that it might induce from Bluder, Warnock is second on the team in assists, with six.
It’s far too early to tell where Iowa will fit in the Big Ten race this season. But it’s a certainty that the Hawkeyes will be an entertaining, fun watch.
Led by the trio of Caitlin Clark, Monika Czinano and Warnock, the Hawkeyes are averaging 99.5 points per game, allowing 89.0.
A freshman from West Des Moines Dowling, Clark is averaging 28.5 points and 8.5 assists per game. Czinano is scoring at a 23.0-point rate and shooting 72 percent from the field.
“We just need to get better on defense,” Bluder said.
Wisconsin opened the season with a 73-66 win over Western Illinois on Sunday.
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