By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Keep your scorecard handy when the University of Iowa women’s basketball team takes the court in its season opener Friday against Oral Roberts.
Ten Hawkeyes played at least 12 minutes during a 61-35 exhibition victory Nov. 6 against Lewis University and UI head coach Lisa Bluder intends to stick with a five-in, five-out philosophy to maximize the team’s balance and depth.
“If you don’t use it, you’re taking away one of your strengths,” Bluder said Thursday at a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We feel this is a way we can use it.”
Against Lewis, the starting five of senior Ally Disterhoft, sophomores Tania Davis and Megan Gustafson, and freshmen Bre Cera and Kathleen Doyle, played between 21-23 minutes. Freshman Makenzie Meyer played 17 minutes, followed by juniors Christina Buttenham and Chase Coley with 15 minutes. Freshman Amanda Ollinger saw 13 minutes of playing time and senior Alexa Kastanek added 12.
“We want to make sure we’re getting players in the game,” Bluder said. “It’s early in the year and you want to make sure we’re giving everybody an opportunity to grow. We want to win games, but at the same time, this allows us to get more people on the floor and opportunity for those groups to work together and be better.”
It will be a busy weekend for the Hawkeyes. They open against Oral Roberts on Friday at 6 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena and host Hampton on Sunday at noon.
Oral Roberts returns four starters from a team that went 14-16 last season. The Golden Eagles defeated Rogers State, 77-60, in an exhibition Saturday and had three players in double figures: guard Kaylan Mayberry (25 points), guard Lakota Beatty (19), and forward Maria Martianez (16).
“Oral Roberts will be quite the test for us,” Bluder said. “They were young last year and are a little more veteran this year. They shoot the 3 well, bring things defensively we have had to prepare for — they like to trap, press, and their zone is spread out. This time of year you haven’t had quite enough time to work on all those things that will be challenges we have to get ready for.”
Hampton was 14-17 last season when they opened with a 95-59 loss at Iowa State. The first regular season game for the Pirates is Friday at Northwestern.
“It’s a big week,” Bluder said. “It’s the start of the season and that’s exciting.”
The Hawkeyes have won their last 16 season openers, a streak that extends back to Bluder’s first season as UI head coach.
Bluder began the news conference with comments about Jinaya Houston, a senior from Davenport (Iowa) North High School who signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the University of Iowa beginning in 2017-18.
“We’re excited to bring her into our program,” Bluder said. “She’s an excellent athlete, great basketball player, and an Iowa kid who dreamed of being a Hawkeye. She can play a number of positions and is a great addition to our team.”