By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The postgame ritual is consistent in the University of Iowa women’s basketball locker room.
Draw a charging foul? Here’s a Snickers or 100 Grand candy bar.
Convert a three-point play? Have a PayDay or roll of Mentos.
Lead the team in assists?
“We don’t bribe them for that,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said Thursday during a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The No. 16 Hawkeyes don’t seem to need the extra, sugary incentive.
“If you lead in assists, everyone goes crazy, but no candy bar,” said senior point guard Tania Davis. “We have to work on that. You should ask (coach Bluder) about it. Maybe she will do it because you asked.”
Sorry, Tania. A dish on the court won’t lead to a trip to the candy dish.
Iowa is third in the NCAA with an average of 22.2 assists per game. Drake, its opponent Friday in the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa, is second in the NCAA with 22.3 assists per game.
“It goes back to the type of young women you recruit,” Bluder said. “Are they team players? We always sell that we really don’t want to have a star philosophy; we want to have five people (score) in double figures and Drake is similar to that. They recruit good young women who want to be part of something special.”
The Hawkeyes (8-2 overall) handed out a season-high 36 assists against North Carolina Central on Nov. 17 and 34 in their first road test at Western Kentucky on Nov. 13. During an 83-57 win over Northern Iowa on Dec. 16, Iowa reached the 20-assist milestone for a fifth time this season. The team leader was junior Kathleen Doyle with seven.
“We play such a team game and it is fun to play that way,” Doyle said. “You always know when you’re giving (the ball) up, it will eventually come back to you. It is more fun playing like that. We take great pride in assists.”
Junior Makenzie Meyer leads the Hawkeyes with 4.7 assists per game, followed by Davis (4.3), sophomore Alexis Sevillian (3.7), and Doyle (3.3). Davis says there is no internal competition for being the assist leader, but the “trade-a-good-shot-for-a-great-shot” philosophy is ingrained in them all.
“None of us care how many points we score,” Davis said. “We’re very unselfish and we want to see each other succeed. We get more excited when one of our teammates scores than when we score. That is what brings out the best in us — that joy and ball movement around the floor. Passing is what we love to do.”
Iowa wraps up its nonconference slate at Drake (8-3), a team that holds wins over Nebraska, Rutgers, South Carolina, and Creighton. In their last outing, the Bulldogs lost at Iowa State, 86-81.
“It will be an exciting game and they typically have been over there,” Bluder said. “This Drake team is really, really good. I think it will be a great atmosphere and a great women’s basketball game for the state of Iowa.”
Tip-off is 6 p.m. (CT) and the game will be televised on MC22. The Knapp Center holds 7,152 and few, if any, seats are expected to be empty.
“Playing in an exciting atmosphere is what we all want for women’s basketball,” Bluder said. “It is no fun playing in an arena with a couple hundred people like when I used to play. It’s nice to see great crowds for women’s basketball games.”