By Sean Bock
In a rivalry game, records are thrown out the window. Iowa is 8-1 and Iowa State sits at 3-4 this season, but anything can happen in rivalry games.
To make things more interesting, the upcoming game is at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, where magic seems to take place.
“Their fans are so terrific, and it’s their belief on their home court,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “That’s hard to defend. You may be strong going in there, but they believe in the Hilton Magic. That makes it hard.”
Iowa hasn’t won at Hilton in almost three decades, and this seems like the perfect time to do something about it. The game is set for 6:30 p.m. today.
“I feel like it’s a good chance [to end the streak],” Bluder said. “Whenever you go on the road, it’s a little harder, and we understand that. Knowing we haven’t had a victory there in a long time, I like where our team is right now.”
In the past three matchups in Ames, the Hawkeyes have lost by a total of 18 points. It wasn’t until recently that these games were close, as Iowa lost six out of the previous 10 meetings by double digits.
“We have gotten much closer than we were,” Bluder said. “It used to be when we went over there, it wasn’t fun. We were getting double-digit losses. I don’t know if there is a common theme [in the losses], other than that the home team has prevailed.”
The home teams seem to have the distinct advantage in this rivalry as the hosts have won 15 out of the last 16 times. Iowa State won on the road in 2006, when they knocked off Iowa, 80-74, in Carver-Hawkeye.
The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series, 25-22, and they are seeking their first win in Ames since 1989-90.
Makenzie Meyer and Amanda Ollinger are the only Iowa natives on the Hawkeye roster, but the other players realize the importance of the rivalry and are ready for the challenge.
“I didn’t know how big of a rivalry this was when I got here,” Megan Gustafson said. “I had rivals in high school, but nothing like Iowa and Iowa State.”
The Cyclones head into the game having lost three-straight contests. They are led by junior guard Bridget Carleton, who is averaging 20.0 points per game including a 30-point performance against Vanderbilt on Dec. 2.
“She’s one of those special players and is a hard matchup,” Bluder said. “She can play anything from point guard to power forward. It’s going to have to be defense by committee [on her], because I don’t think one person can have full responsibility for guarding her.”
The Hawkeyes are fresh off an 80-59 win against Samford on Dec. 2. Iowa struggled in the first half but started to pick things up, which gives it momentum going into tonight’s matchup with the Cyclones.
“They are a really good team and shoot the ball well,” Tania Davis said. “Our goal is to go into this and follow the scouting report. If we do that, we will win.”
The Hawkeyes will return home Saturday to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 2 p.m.