By Jordan Zuniga
The Hawkeye women’s weeklong absence from the basketball court is coming to a close this weekend when they take on Wisconsin at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18 in Carver-Hawkeye. The game marks the first of three the Hawkeyes will play in this upcoming week to close the Big Ten regular season.
Wisconsin (9-18, 2-12 Big Ten) might seem like an easy opponent on paper, but Lisa Bluder and Company aren’t taking the Badgers lightly.
The Hawkeyes (20-6, 8-5 Big Ten) may have beaten the Badgers, 56-46, in Madison, but Wisconsin has played better basketball recently than it did at the start of Big Ten play.
“This is a team that’s much better than they were at the beginning of the year,” Bluder said. “But I think we’re different, too. We didn’t have Makenzie [Meyer].”
Each of these games will be crucial, because Iowa is in fifth place, just a game out of fourth, which would secure the Hawkeyes a first-round bye in the fast-approaching Big Ten Tournament.
Consequently, Iowa needs a win — the eighth-place team sits just a game and a half behind.
Intensity is ratcheting up, and luckily, Iowa is riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak. That late-season surge is due, in large part, to the play of Iowa’s two post starters: Megan Gustafson and Chase Coley.
Gustafson has been stellar all season, racking up the awards almost as quickly as she has points and rebounds. Each and every game, Gustafson is beset with double-teams, and every game she embarrasses the defenders.
How does she do it? Fancy footwork and some good old-fashioned gym time.
“Just being able to have that footwork,” Gustafson said. “We practice that every day. Reading what side they’re coming from and being able to find open teammates. We practice that pass over to the other post every single day.”
Those passes out of the double-teams more often than not end up in the hands of Coley and her nearly automatic mid-range jumper.
Coley has really capitalized on her opportunities recently, and she has been a big part of the Hawkeyes going 5-1 in their last six games.
Before this six-game stretch, Coley was averaging 7.8 points per game, but since, she has put up 11.6 points per game while grabbing 7.8 boards and dishing out 3.5 assists.
With Coley and Gustafson red-hot under the basket, it’s a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, but that means a whole lot of fun for the Hawkeyes.
“It’s so much fun because we do it in practice,” Coley said. “We’ve got a solid post group, I think. It’s so fun to see what we work so hard at in practice translate on to the court.”
This post duo have been pillaging Big Ten defenses, and they will need to keep up the stellar play in March if the Hawkeyes hope to get anywhere.
First they will need to get through Wisconsin, which will be a pink-out to spread awareness about breast cancer. After Monday’s game, the Hawkeyes will head to Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on Rutgers at 6 p.m. Feb. 21.