By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — School is back in session and the No. 18/22 University of Iowa women’s basketball team is in the midst of busy stretch.
After posting their first Big Ten road victory of the season Monday at No. 23 Minnesota, the Hawkeyes return to Mediacom Court to face Michigan on Thursday at 7 p.m. (CT) inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“There is a lot going on this week,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said during a Wednesday news conference. “Not only are the players getting back engaged with their studies and getting into that routine, but we also have three games with two of them coming on the road.
“There is a lot going on with this team, but we’re excited coming off the road win at Minnesota. We are glad to be back in Carver and we are going to see two of the best posts going against each other. What an opportunity to see two future WNBA Draft picks in the post position going head-to-head against each other.”
Iowa All-American Megan Gustafson will tangle with Michigan’s 6-foot-5 center Hallie Thome, who is averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds for a Wolverine team that is 11-6 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play. Michigan is winless on the road in three league contests, falling at Nebraska (70-56), at Purdue (71-70), and at No. 9 Maryland (83-69) on Jan. 12.
“They have a good post presence inside in Hallie Thome, so we have to be ready for that, but they have some good shooters,” said Gustafson. “We’ll be ready.”
Michigan’s back-up post — Naz Hillmon — is second on the team, averaging 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds. Guard Nicole Munger averages 10.6 points with a team-high 35 3-pointers.
“Michigan certainly is not a one-woman show,” said Bluder. “Nicole Munger is always someone who I have been impressed with. She’s a hard-nosed kid who can shoot 3s and is good in transition.
“They have a freshman point guard who was Miss Indiana Basketball. Amy (Dilk) is doing a nice job as a freshman and Deja Church and Hailey Brown are getting more comfortable in their sophomore seasons. It will be a good game.”
In Minneapolis, the Hawkeyes played a strong first quarter, a so-so second quarter, before playing a “really good” second half en route to the 81-63 victory.
“I was happy with the way our team came out and played, stayed focused, and showed some mental strength in this game,” said Bluder.
Iowa’s second-half performance served as a reminder of the Hawkeyes’ potential if they can play complete, 40-minute games.
“We’re so confident in each other and our team that we know what we’re capable of,” said junior guard Kathleen Doyle. “When we have second halves like that, we don’t forget about those. We try to take those, carry forward, and try to do that again. Having that experience of having those great moments as a team, we do our best to try to capture those runs and build on them.”
Thursday’s game will be televised on BTN with Lisa Byington and Brenda VanLengen on the call. It’s Buck Night with all adult tickets being $1 (children and Iowa students are free).