By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It remains to be seen when sophomore point guard Tania Davis suits up again for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team. Davis tore an ACL on Feb. 5 at Michigan, and although the Hawkeyes will be without her 10.9 points per game or her characteristic deep 3 and circus layup, she is already leading from the sideline.
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder asked Davis to address the team before practice Monday.
“She spoke about not knowing when it could be your last possession — play every possession like that,” Bluder said. “The team wants to do this for Tania and that extra motivation cannot hurt at this point.”
“This point” is 23 games into the season with an NCAA Tournament berth in the balance. The Hawkeyes (14-9 overall, 5-5 Big Ten) host Michigan State (16-7, 6-4) on Thursday with a 6 p.m. (CT) tip from Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Freshman Kathleen Doyle will assume more point guard responsibilities; she has started the last 18 games, playing primarily shooting guard, where she averages 8.9 points and 4.0 assists per game. Bluder says there are “quite a few options” for the fifth Hawkeye starter, but she will wait until after Wednesday’s practice to decide.
Regardless, there won’t be a drastically different look from the Hawkeyes who are known for excelling at “position-less basketball.”
“I hate to change what we do because it is what we have been working on since summer,” Bluder said. “That would almost be more disruptive to try to get them to change their style at this point.”
Davis tore the ACL in her right knee with less than three minutes remaining in a 72-70 loss to the Wolverines. She is scheduled for surgery Feb. 17 and will miss at least a portion of the 2017-18 nonconference season.
The loss of Davis hurts most from a depth perspective. Bluder briefly toyed with the idea of pulling the redshirt from true freshman Alexis Sevillian, but she didn’t think it was wise this late in the season.
“That is not fair to Lexi,” Bluder said. “I didn’t think it was the right thing to do ethically to her.”
Look for the Hawkeyes to lean more heavily on senior Ally Disterhoft, who is second in career scoring in Iowa history with 1,910 points. She has eight 3-point field goals in the last three games.
“I have to continue to be aggressive on the offensive end,” Disterhoft said. “I have to focus on bringing that attack mentality and encourage the younger kids on the team. I will continue to do what I can to help them progress into their newer roles.”
The spotlight will shine brightest on Doyle. The freshman has scored in double figures 20 times this season with a career-high 21 at Maryland three games ago. She has had at least four assists in a game 14 times.
“I need to take on more of a vocal role,” Doyle said. “Our team believes in each other and we have faith we can pull together and have a successful end to the season.”
The next obstacle is a Michigan State team on a three-game winning streak with two of those coming on the road. In the Spartans’ last action — a 93-74 victory over Minnesota — Tori Jankoska scored 20 points with 14 rebounds.
Thursday’s game will be broadcast on BTN with Mike Wolf and Christy Winters Scott calling the action.