By Jordan Zuniga
After a weekend in which the Iowa women’s basketball team took on two NCAA Tournament teams from last year, the Hawkeyes will ease the competition with a matchup against Northern Illinois.
Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. in Carver-Hawkeye, and while Northern Illinois isn’t the same caliber opponent as the Iowa’s last two, the Huskies are no slouch.
They return three starters — who averaged double-figure points last season — from a 21-12 season that culminated in a WNIT appearance.
The Huskies head into the game, as do the Hawkeyes, with a 2-0 record and their offense dominating in both games. So far, Northern Illinois has averaged 94.5 points a game while holding their opponents to just 46.
“They’re going to be a good team,” Megan Gustafson said. “We’re really excited to get out there [tonight].”
Coming off a weekend full of hard-fought basketball, some teams might fall into the trap of overlooking an opponent such as the Huskies, but head coach Lisa Bluder doesn’t believe that will be the case with her team, even with the absence of a key Hawkeye.
“I think not having Kathleen [Doyle] will really give us focus,” Bluder said. “Because anytime you’re missing a part, then it brings everyone up everyone’s focus. I think you saw that in the game, too, we lost her, and our team really zoned in at that point, and they wanted to win that for her.”
Sophomore Doyle went down with an ankle injury on Nov. 11 against Western Kentucky, and the Hawkeyes immediately rallied.
A few minutes after she went down, the Hawkeyes went on a 10-0 run, erasing an 8-point deficit. Much of that success was due to the sophomore guard’s replacement, Alexis Sevillian.
Sevillian played great defense down the stretch, including a crucial steal and denying the opponent a chance to take the lead with 15 seconds remaining.
Then, in overtime, she hit a 3-pointer on the first possession to give Iowa the lead.
Bluder said Doyle is “highly questionable” for tonight’s game, which means Sevillian may get a bigger role.
“Obviously, [it’s] a great thing for me,” Sevillian said about the prospect of an increased role. “Just as a team, we have to be ready to step up and to pick up what [Doyle] has done. And I think we’ll do a great job like we did this [past] weekend.”
While Sevillian had two solid games, the weekend belonged to Gustafson, who showed that she can live up to, if not exceed, the preseason hype surrounding her.
In the two games — keeping in mind both teams made last year’s NCAA Tournament — Gustafson averaged 25.5 points and 16 rebounds per game, earning her Big Ten Player of the Week.
When Bluder was asked whether Gustafson could keep up her ludicrous pace,she expressed doubt but didn’t deny the possibility.
“Give her a goal, and she’s going to go get it for you,” Bluder said. “I’m not saying she can’t do anything because she’ll prove me wrong.”