Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — How much respect does University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder have for No. 3 Maryland, the Hawkeyes’ opponent this afternoon inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena?
On Nov. 30, Iowa hosted Notre Dame, which at the time was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Bluder views the Terrapins as a stiffer challenge.
“I think Maryland is the best team on our schedule this year,” Bluder said. “No disservice to Notre Dame, but I think Maryland is outstanding. You look at how close they played UConn (an 87-81 loss on Dec. 29) and UConn is destroying everybody. Maryland played them really well.”
Iowa is 11-6 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten after a 78-58 win against Illinois on Jan. 11. That same evening, Maryland (16-1, 4-0) defeated Penn State at home, 89-83. The Terrapins lead the Big Ten in scoring offense (90.4 points per game), scoring margin (plus-30.3), field goal percentage (50.9), rebounding margin (plus-16.8), assists per game (20.7), steals per game (12.5), and turnover margin (plus-5).
Maryland senior Brionna Jones is coming off a 42-point, 14-rebound effort against Penn State. She averages 19.2 points and 10.5 rebounds a game and shoots 68.7 percent from the field.
“She is so strong and her footwork is amazing,” Bluder said. “She is their No. 1 target. They look to her and have confidence in her.”
The Terrapins can also hurt you from outside. The trio of freshman Destiny Slocum, senior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, and junior Kristen Confroy averages 4.6 3-point field goals a game, while shooting 39.4 percent from distance.
“This year we have been playing better in Carver. At the same time, we respect Maryland and know how good they are. It gives us a little confidence that we played well against Notre Dame and that we do play well at home. But we understand how good Maryland is, we’re not going into this blind, either.” — Lisa Bluder
“We know they are an excellent 3-point shooting team,” Bluder said. “Any time a team has a strength, you try to take it away as much as you can. You know they are good at it, so you can’t lay off of them.”
The Hawkeyes are tops in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to 27.1-percent shooting and a Big Ten-low 5.2 3-pointers per game.
Bluder said her team will have to be at its best in defensive transition and boxing out. While Maryland leads the league in scoring, Iowa isn’t too shabby, either, averaging 76.2 points per game.
“Can we run on them? Not sure, but I don’t think we want to start walking the ball down the floor, it’s not us,” Bluder said. “We will still try to do what we do, but we have to focus on defensive transition with them and boxing out because they score very well off offensive rebounds.”
One factor in Iowa’s favor is playing on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The last time the Hawkeyes played at home on a Saturday, they drew a season-best 6,750 fans against Nebraska.
“This year we have been playing better in Carver,” Bluder said. “At the same time, we respect Maryland and know how good they are. It gives us a little confidence that we played well against Notre Dame and that we do play well at home. But we understand how good Maryland is, we’re not going into this blind, either.”
Both teams start two freshmen. The Terrapins have guards Slocum (11.4 points per game) and Kaila Charles (9.1 ppg); Iowa has Kathleen Doyle (8.7 ppg, 3.6 assists per game) and Makenzie Meyer (5.2 ppg). In four Big Ten games, Doyle is averaging 29.5 minutes, 12.8 points, and 4.3 assists.
“We knew (Doyle) was going to be a great player and it is just getting that flow and feel of Big Ten and Division I basketball,” Bluder said. “The more she is out there, the more comfortable she is just playing her game and not having to think through everything.”
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. (CT). The first 1,000 fans will receive a free women’s basketball “Whiteout” T-Shirt. Keep the scouting report handy, because Iowa plays at Maryland on Jan. 29.