Iowa Women's Basketball

Pivotal week for Iowa women's basketball begins Thursday against No. 17 Maryland

It's a rematch of last year's Big Ten tournament championship

Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder celebrates a basket against Drake on Dec. 21. The Hawkeyes host Maryland in a Big Ten women's bas
Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder celebrates a basket against Drake on Dec. 21. The Hawkeyes host Maryland in a Big Ten women’s basketball game at 7 p.m. Thursday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Lisa Bluder’s opening statement Wednesday said plenty.

“Obviously, it’s a big week,” she said.

Obviously.

The preseason Big Ten women’s basketball favorite, 17th-ranked Maryland invades Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday for a 7 p.m. tip with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

It’s a rematch of last year’s Big Ten tournament championship, won by the Hawkeyes.

“We got them twice last year, so they’re going to be more hungry,” Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle said. “We have to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.”

So far, that version has been quite good ... better than most expected.

“I think we’re getting there,” Bluder said. “For this time of year, this team is playing pretty well right now.”

The Hawkeyes (11-3 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) are coming off an impressive 77-51 win at Northwestern. That put them in a seven-way tie for second place in the league; Maryland (11-3, 2-1) is part of that congestion, as well.

Iowa has won 28 consecutive games at Carver. If they can hold serve twice this week (No. 12 Indiana comes to town Sunday), the Hawkeyes will be tied for the Big Ten lead and most likely ranked in the top 25 in the next poll for the first time this season.

First things first. Maryland — coached by Cedar Rapids native Brenda Frese — poses a huge challenge.

“It’s a different-looking Maryland team this year,” Bluder said. “They had an excellent recruiting class, and their freshmen are playing a big part.

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Preseason Big Ten player of the year Kaila Charles leads a balanced attack (five Terrapins average in double figures) at 13.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

“She’s a tremendous athlete, an unbelievable scorer and penetrator,” Bluder said.

Doyle is the reigning Big Ten player of the week after posting 48 points and 13 assists in two games last week.

“Kathleen leads with such passion. I love that about her,” Bluder said.

Last year, Tania Davis was the Hawkeyes’ “ice” to Doyle’s “fire.” But Davis graduated, and “Makenzie (Meyer) was kind of anointed that person,” Bluder said. “We had to have somebody in that role.”

Doyle leads the Hawkeyes at 17.0 points and 6.1 assists per game. Monika Czinano (15.6 ppg) leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 71.4 percent, and Meyer adds 14.6 points per contest.

“I’m really excited. We get to play two of the best teams in the Big Ten this week, to really test our skills,” Czinano said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

It’s a big week.

Obviously.

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

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