Dec. 19, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa versus Drake. Make no mistake about it; there is a little extra meaning when the two in-state rivals meet on an annual basis, and this year will be no different.
The 22nd-ranked Hawkeyes host the Bulldogs at 4 p.m. (CT) on Saturday on Mediacom Court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and as usual, there are a number of storylines featuring the ties that bind the two programs.
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder — one of 13 active Division I coaches with 600 or more wins — coached 10 successful seasons (1990-2000) at Drake before taking over the Hawkeye program.
Iowa associate head coach Jan Jensen and assistant coach Jenni Fitzgerald both played and coached at Drake. Jensen is one of only two Drake women’s basketball players to have her uniform retired. Both Jensen and Fitzgerald received the Drake Double D Award, which is the highest honor Drake bestows on its student-athletes.
For the second year in a row, the Hawkeye staff will be game-planning against a familiar face; Drake head coach Jennie (Lillis) Baranczyk.
“She was a tremendous player and competitor for us,” said Bluder. “She brings that same type of competitiveness to her coaching as she did leading us in rebounding.
“It’s hard, because if she was at an Illinois State it would be easier. When you add the rivalry to it… I’d rather not play her. I’d rather my former players be coaching and I never have to coach against them. It’s not something I look forward to.”
Baranczyk was a four-year letterwinner at Iowa, graduating in 2004. She was an honorable mention All-American and a three-time All-Big Ten selection. She still ranks fifth in career scoring (1,762), fifth in blocks (114), seventh in rebounds (827), eighth in steals (190) and 14th in assists (297).
The contest against the Bulldogs has long been an emotional game for the Iowa staff.
“The Drake game is more emotional for us because all of us spent time there,” said Bluder. “Jan and Jenni were there for eight years, and I was there a decade. That’s a long time when you’re there for a decade, that’s roots you have in a community, school.
“We were a part of the game that opened the Knapp Center. Jan and Jenni played there; Jan has her jersey retired there. This one is always a little more emotional than the other ones, even though I played at UNI. This one has more emotion for me.”
Each year the Hawkeye head coach tries to distance herself, but the emotions still linger.
“Every year you get further and further away from it,” said Bluder. “Every year you distance yourself a little more away from it and you need to. You have to because you don’t want those types of feelings. I will cheer for Drake every single game of the year except for this one. This one we’re out to win.”
Shelley Till, mother of Hawkeye sophomore Claire Till, and Missy Disterhoft, mother of Hawkeye freshman Ally Disterhoft, played basketball at Drake and were teammates with current Iowa assistants Jan Jensen and Jenni Fitzgerald.
“There is added meaning because there is a lot of history, but we view it as another game,” said Disterhoft. “We are excited to get back out there on our home court in front of our great Hawkeye fans.
“It is another in-state game,” said Till. “It is our last game before break, and it is a big game, like every other game. We have to be focused on playing Iowa basketball.”
The first 1,000 fans in attendance at Saturday’s game will receive an Iowa stocking.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for youth. Youth — five years old and younger — are admitted free to all games, and UI students are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased online at hawkeyesports.com, over the phone at 1-800 IA-HAWKS, and at the UI Athletics Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.