By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Don’t let the thermometer fool you, the 13th-ranked University of Iowa women’s basketball team is bringing a hot streak to Ann Arbor, Michigan on Thursday.
The Hawkeyes (16-4 overall, 7-2 Big Ten) have won five straight games — two on the road — heading into round 2 against Michigan (12-9, 3-6) in Crisler Center with a 5 p.m. (CT) tip.
The second of those five straight wins for Iowa was 75-61 over the Wolverines on Jan. 17 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“The thing for us to stay hot is to keep approaching every game as it’s the first or last game of the year,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said Wednesday during a teleconference. “We can’t get caught up in any excitement or hype. It’s a balancing act; I want them to know they’re ranked No. 12 in the country (in the coaches poll), but at the same time, they’re the same kids who at the beginning of the year weren’t ranked that high.
“I want to keep them level-headed, blinders on, going into each game preparing just as hard for each game as we have all season.”
During wins over Minnesota (on the road), Michigan, Illinois (road), Rutgers, and Purdue, the Hawkeyes have averaged 78.8 points per game while shooting 57.3 percent from the field. They have averaged 23.4 assists, 6.2 steals, and 5.6 3-point field goals per game.
Experience is on Iowa’s side with a starting lineup of three seniors and two juniors.
“That is an advantage for us to have that type of experience,” Bluder said. “To have that, ‘You’ve been around the block,’ you know how to handle these situations, you know how to go on the road, you know how to handle the crowd.”
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) January 18, 2019
In the first meeting, Iowa broke open a close game by outscoring Michigan 22-9 in the third quarter. Senior center Megan Gustafson compiled game-highs in points (21) and rebounds (16). She was joined in double figures by senior forward Hannah Stewart (16 points), senior guard Tania Davis (10), and junior guard Kathleen Doyle (10). Gustafson and Davis both handed out six assists.
The rematch will be in Crisler Center, where the Wolverines are 8-1 this season.
Because of low temperatures, the Hawkeyes moved up their practice time Wednesday and departed earlier than originally planned.
“I don’t forsee any issues at all,” said Bluder, referring to travel plans.
Regardless of wind chill, Iowa looks to continue its winning ways Thursday with an eventual goal of enhancing its seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“We need to keep winning game after game and then good things will happen,” Bluder said. “We all know the advantage of being a top 4 seed, my team knows that. We know the way to get there is to put the blinders on and go. Let’s focus on Michigan.”
Iowa leads the all-time series with Michigan. 50-17. Thursday’s game will be televised by BTN with Chris Vosters and Christy Winters Scott on the call.