By Sean Bock
After notching a win over Northern Illinois on Nov. 15, the Iowa women’s basketball team returns to action Nov. 19 against Western Michigan.
The frontcourt play has been the story recently for the Hawkeyes. Junior forward Megan Gustafson has dominated the middle; she has three-straight double-doubles to start the season.
In the first three contests, Gustafson has averaged 24.3 points and 14.3 rebounds per game and has shot a very efficient 69 percent from the field. Gustafson’s presence is forcing defenses to double-team on the block, which opens up more outside shots for her teammates.
While Gustafson has had a notable stat line, Chase Coley has held her own at the other starting frontcourt spot. After starting in only two games last season, Coley has played a huge factor in her team’s hot start this year. The senior averages 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, with a 20-point performance against the Huskies, 2 points shy of a career high.
“We don’t have a lot of depth in the frontcourt, but our frontcourt is really strong,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We want to use that as much as we can. Chase had a really good game in our last game. I feel like we have more depth than a lot of people do in that frontcourt, and we need to keep using it.
With the absence of injured Kathleen Doyle in the backcourt, Alexis Sevillian has had to step up, and she answered the bell in her first start, against Northern Illinois.
Sevillian finished with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 30 minutes, with 9 of her 15 coming in the first quarter.
Western Michigan sits at 2-1 entering the matchup against the Hawkeyes.
Junior Breanna Mobley is considered the star for the Broncos, averaging 14.9 points and 9.9 rebounds last season and earning third-team All-MAC honors and first team all-defense.
Western Michigan returns 11 letterwinners on a team that went 19-13 overall, 8-10 in the MAC, and has plenty of firepower to give Iowa problems.
“They’re a transition team, and they rebound very well,” Bluder said. “They run an offense very similar to what we saw against Western Kentucky. Their inside game is stronger than what we’ve seen of late. It will be different for us.”
A coach loves it when the team takes advantage of each opportunity. That’s what Iowa has done from the free-throw line.
After three games, the Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten and are second in the nation in free-throw percentage at 93.2 percent. Being in so many close games to start the season, the success at the free-throw line is a big reason the team is 3-0.
“I like the trend,” Bluder said. “Those things as coaches we don’t even talk about, we don’t look there, we don’t go there because we don’t want to jinx ourselves. I like the way it’s heading, but we’re not going to bring it up to the team.”
Following its game against Western Michigan, Iowa will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the 2017 Puerto Rico Classic, where the Hawkeyes will clash with Morgan State on Nov. 22, Charlotte on Nov. 23, and Elon on Nov. 25. Iowa will return home on Nov. 29 to face Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.