By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — In this pencil and eraser time brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder has penciled a starting lineup for Wednesday when her Hawkeyes open the 2020-21 season at home against Northern Iowa.
Junior Monika Czinano will be in the post, sophomore McKenna Warnock at power forward, redshirt sophomore Kate Martin at the other forward, sophomore Gabbie Marshall at off guard and freshman Caitlin Clark at point guard.
Iowa won 23 games last season, 14 in the Big Ten. After winning the first two games of the 2019-20 season by an average of 28 ½ points, the Hawkeyes traveled to Cedar Falls and lost to the Panthers, 88-66. Iowa never lead and trailed by as many as 30 points in the fourth quarter.
“UNI is really good,” Bluder said. “They gave us everything we could handle, plus more, at their place last year. They took it at us pretty good.”
“I think we’re going to be really good this year, it may take us time. I don’t know how long because of how young we are, but we’re ready to compete. We’re ready to give our women’s basketball fans something to get excited about and I think my team can do that.”Lisa Bluder, Iowa head women's basketball coach
Bluder, who played at UNI from 1979-83 and was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2000, says on paper the Panthers will be favored, especially since they return all five starters from a year ago. That news has left Iowa with a collective chip on its shoulder, which Bluder calls a good thing.
“I think we’re going to be really good this year, it may take us time,” she said. “I don’t know how long because of how young we are, but we’re ready to compete. We’re ready to give our women’s basketball fans something to get excited about and I think my team can do that.”
Bluder raves about Iowa’s depth, balance and shooting ability. She is also thankful the team will have 30 practices before the season tips off and says she could use 10 or more players in the opener.
“I love coming to practice every day with this group,” Bluder said. “They are fun, focused and energetic.”
The Northern Iowa-Iowa game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. (CT) from Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Each player and coach will receive four admission tickets. At this point, general admission is not allowed.
“We talk a lot about bringing our own energy,” Bluder said. “You’re not going to have Carver-Hawkeye Arena to get you revved up, you have to do it yourself.”
Iowa finished the 2019-20 season ranked 21st in the final AP Poll before the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hawkeyes ranked in the top 15 nationally in six statistical categories: fourth in field-goal percentage (48.5), sixth in total assists (599) and assists per game (20), 11th in scoring offense (79.5), 12th in 3-point field-goal percentage (37.2), and 15th in assist:turnover ratio (1.27). They return nine letterwinners, including starters senior Alexis Sevillian and junior Monika Czinano.
Czinano, a 2019-20 first team All-Big Ten selection (media), was named to the preseason All-Big Ten team (coaches and media) on Nov. 11 after ranking second in the country in shooting percentage (67.9) as a sophomore.