Iowa Embracing Hilton Challenge

Dec. 9, 2015



IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s just another week for the No. 19 University of Iowa women’s basketball team, but the stakes are a little more pressure-packed.

2011-12 Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series, 250 wide

The Hawkeyes travel to Ames, Iowa, on Friday for an Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series matchup against Iowa State. Game time is set for 7 p.m. (CT) from Hilton Coliseum.

“There is a lot of hype that goes into this game,” said junior guard Alexa Kastanek. “What will help with the outcome is going in and knowing we need to defend certain people, get on their shooters, do the things we need to do, and take it as a normal game.

“But that’s kind of hard (to do) when you haven’t won their in 26 years.”

The home teams have won 13 of the last 14 meetings in the series. The Cyclones have the lone road win during the stretch, prevailing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 2006; Iowa’s last victory in Ames came on Dec. 17, 1989.

“It is kind of ironic the last several years how the home court has held,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said during a Wednesday news conference. “We want to change that this year, and we know it’s going to take complete focus.”

Iowa State is 4-3 overall, but Bluder says not to let the Cyclones’ record fool you.

“This is a very good basketball,” said Bluder. “I know their record doesn’t show it, but when you have Duke on your schedule, it changes things. All of their losses have come on the road, but they have won in Hilton. We know they’ll be playing in front of a great environment, and we have our work cut out for us.”

The Cyclones average 10,306 fans in two home games this season against Hampton and Southern. With Iowa coming to town, the energy will be at another level.

“It’s the first time we’ll have played in an environment like that (this season),” said Bluder. “I have confidence in our team, but in saying that, we’re a young team and you never know how young teams are going to respond in those situations.

“We’ve played better on the road than at home. We’re looking forward to this game, and even though we don’t have a bunch of Iowans on our team, we’re ready for the challenge.”

The Hawkeyes have three Iowa natives on the 2015-16 roster in junior captain Ally Disterhoft, senior Claire Till, and junior Hailey Schneden. The Cyclones counter with four Iowans, including redshirt sophomore guard Jadda Buckley.

Bluder says getting the non-Iowans entrenched in the rivalry isn’t a problem.

“It isn’t hard to get the players motivated even if they’re not from Iowa,” said Bluder. “They understand the importance and hear about the Cy-Hawk Series all the time. I want to go the other way and put less focus on the opponent and more on ourselves this week.”

It’s a way to defer some of the rivalry talk and narrow the focus. It’s a way to treat it as just another game, even if it kind of isn’t.

“It is a big rivalry game, but you have to go into each practice treating it as another game,” said sophomore Whitney Jennings. “You can’t put too much emphasis on it. I don’t think good things can happen from that.”

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