Hawkeye Fan Shop — A Black & Gold Store | 24 Hawkeyes to Watch 2016-17 | Hawk Talk Monthly — Jan. 2017 | 2016-17 Women’s Basketball Media Guide | Hawk Talk with Lisa Bluder | VIDEO — Lisa Bluder News Conference
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — If the University of Iowa women’s basketball team needs a rebound Saturday against Minnesota, junior Chase Coley will oblige. She pulled down four in 17 minutes at Rutgers on Tuesday.
If the Hawkeyes lack defensive intensity, Coley will be an energizer. She had steals in back-to-back games against Illinois (Jan. 11) and Maryland (Jan. 14).
And if Iowa needs a big shot, Coley will answer. She was 3-of-4 from the field against Maryland and 4-of-5 against Rutgers.
“Lately I feel what the team needs is someone to come off the bench and hit open buckets,” Coley said. “It’s easy to key on three players and not guard the other two. If I, Hannah Stewart, Christina Buttenham, and other people come off the bench and show the other team we are scoring threats, it opens it more for everyone else.”
Coley played nine minutes in the Big Ten Conference opener at Illinois on Dec. 28. Since then she has logged 24 minutes against Nebraska, 15 in the rematch against Illinois, 15 against Maryland, and 17 at Rutgers. During the most recent four-game span — Iowa is 3-1 in those games — Coley averages 5.3 points and 2.5 rebounds.
“Chase gives us a different dimension offensively and defensively,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said Friday at a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “She can match up against the bigger players if they have a big power forward and it can give the other team problems with our two bigs in there.”
The 6-foot-3 Coley started 31 of 33 games last season, averaging 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. She has provided a spark off the bench this season and will need no extra motivation when the Gophers step on Mediacom Court. Coley is from Minneapolis and lives 10 minutes from the University of Minnesota campus.
“I will always be a Gopher fan, but not (Saturday), not when they play the Hawks,” Coley said. “It’s fun playing them, I know most of the girls on the team.”
Iowa leads the all-time series 48-25, but Bluder reminds the current Hawkeyes how crucial loss No. 25 was. A field goal by Ally Disterhoft with eight seconds remaining gave Iowa a 76-75 lead on Feb. 15, 2016, at Williams Arena. But just before the final buzzer, Minnesota’s Rachel Banham sank a 3-point field goal, handing the Hawkeyes a crippling setback. Iowa finished the season with 19 wins and a 20th would have sent them to the NCAA Tournament for a ninth consecutive season.
“I always look at it like Minnesota might have been the one that took us out of the tournament last year with that last-second shot they hit at their place,” Bluder said. “You look at being one game out of the NCAA Tournament, that’s one you can put your finger on. I remind that to the team.”
Coley posted a double-double that evening with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Hawkeyes are 1-2 against Minnesota with Coley in the lineup. She is averaging 9.0 points and 4.3 rebounds against her hometown team.
“I chose to leave Minnesota for a reason,” Coley said. “I came to Iowa because I think they’re the better team and I’m excited prove that on the court.”
The Hawkeyes (12-7 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) and Minnesota (11-8, 2-4) tip off at 2 p.m. (CT) Saturday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Minnesota’s RPI is 41, Iowa is 64.
“This Minnesota win would be big for us,” Bluder said. “Our last three games we have made progression and I want to keep that going. This is a Minnesota team that is better than its record because they played a tough nonconference schedule and within the Big Ten they have played Maryland, Ohio State, at Michigan, at Indiana. They have played at tough places against the best in the Big Ten.”