By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s not every day that a women’s basketball team gets to face a top 25 opponent. An added bonus is playing the ranked foe at home.
The University of Iowa will have back-to-back opportunities in a four-day stretch when the Hawkeyes (11-3 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) take on No. 16/17 Maryland (11-3, 2-1) on Thursday and No. 12 Indiana (12-2, 3-0) on Sunday. Both games will be played on Mediacom Court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where Iowa has a 28-game winning streak.
“When you have a chance to play a top 25 team on your home court, it is special,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said Wednesday during a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “It’s an opportunity, you have to use that opportunity, and we have a couple this week. If we want to make a statement for the NCAA Tournament, these victories, even though they are happening in January, are very important for March.”
The Hawkeyes closed 2019 with a 108-72 win over Illinois on Dec. 31 and opened 2020 with a 77-51 win at Northwestern on Jan. 5.
“Our team is playing well right now,” Bluder said. “It’s confidence and momentum and we’re trying to chase that now. Hopefully we can get momentum and confidence going, and that can ride you a long way.”
Up first is Maryland, the preseason pick to win the Big Ten. Last season Iowa won, 86-73, in Iowa City and 90-76 in the final of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
“Maryland will come in hot,” Iowa senior guard Kathleen Doyle said.
“You know they have this game circled after last year,” Bluder added.
Following Iowa’s win at Northwestern, sophomore center Monika Czinano spoke of the confidence-boost provided by winning on the road against a quality Big Ten opponent. The Hawkeyes know this is what Maryland craves Thursday.
“Getting a good road win against a good Big Ten team boosts confidence and we know it is something we can do,” Czinano said. “Our goal is to get better by inches. From three weeks in the past, we have gotten better and hopefully we’ll continue to make that progress.”
The Maryland-Iowa game tips off at 7 p.m. (CT) and will be televised by BTN. Single-game tickets are available for purchase online at hawkeyesports.com/tickets, in person at the University of Iowa Athletics Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, or by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS.