When asked why the Iowa women’s basketball team has struggled so much in Hilton Coliseum over the past few seasons, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder can’t really answer the question. And it’s even harder to put a finger on why the games haven’t been close.
“I don’t know. It’s very strange,” Bluder said. “I remember one time we went over there and it was close. I can only remember one close game. This goes back to Jennie Lillis, Jo Solverson. Been a long time since we’ve had a close one there or they’ve had a close one here. Very strange how they’ve been such lopsided victories. I can’t tell you why.”
Iowa has not beaten the Cyclones in Ames since 1989 and is 5-10 overall at Hilton Coliseum in the series. However, the Hawkeyes lead the overall series 22-19 and have played better this season so far.
The Hawkeyes come into the game at 5-3, while Iowa State is 4-2. However, Iowa has played a much tougher schedule, losing games to No. 4 Texas A&M and Kansas State of the Big 12. Both of Iowa State’s losses have come against the Big Ten Conference in Penn State and Michigan.
“Obviously a good team. They are very good in Hilton, as well,” Bluder said. “Coming off a loss to Michigan, somebody in the Big Ten, somebody that we know pretty well. I think that will give our players a little bit of confidence.”
Wednesday’s game will tip off at 7 p.m. and can be seen locally on Mediacom Connections.
“Here we are at the second of our in‑state rivalry games,” Bluder said. “Obviously a big game at Iowa State, a place where we haven’t been successful in the past. It’s kind of been a situation where the home court has held of recent years. Great opportunity for us to bounce back. But we know it’s also a tough scenario.”
Iowa is led by junior guard Jaime Printy, who is averaging 18 points, five rebounds and four assists per game, while 6-foot-5 junior center Morgan Johnson is scoring 13 points per game and also bringing down 5.4 rebounds and blocking 2.4 shots per game.
The Cyclones also feature two players in double figures as Chelsea Poppens leads the team at 14.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per contest. Hallie Christopherson averages 10.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest.
“Obviously Poppens is playing very well for them. She’s a handful inside,” Bluder said. “She’s physical, she’s strong. She uses her body extremely well. Nice point guard leading them and doing a good job of scoring at the point guard position for them. Then Hallie Christofferson is a player that we’ve always really liked. Obviously recruited her really hard. Think she’s a wonderful player.”
Bluder knew during Christopherson’s recruitment out of Exira, that it would be tough for her coaching staff to land a player who has always rooted for the other instate school.
“I knew it was a longshot just because her sister went to Iowa State and competed in their track program,” Bluder said. “She was closer to Ames. Kind of a kid that wanted to stay close to home. We knew it was a longshot. But she was good enough to fight for. Obviously disappointed we didn’t get her. I know she’s going to have a great career there.”
The difference in the game on Wednesday could be in rebounding. When Iowa has played well this year, they have rebounded well. But, in most cases this year, rebounding has been the biggest issue for the Hawkeyes.
In fact, Bluder blamed the last loss against Kansas State in overtime on rebounds and her team’s inability to get second shots at the bucket. To beat Iowa State, the team will have to rebound better.
That is why the X-Factor in the game could be true freshman Samantha Logic. Logic is a McDonald’s All-American out of Wisconsin who is averaging nine points, six rebounds and 3.3 assists per game this season. She has been plagued by fouls some and will need to be at her best to give Iowa a boost on the boards and in the paint.
The series has always and will likely continue to always been close as both programs have built a tradition in their respective conferences. The winner may be the leader in the clubhouse for the next great Iowa high school players that are coming through the ranks.
“It’s not like we have the decisive win and that year we get all the recruits, that year they have the decisive win, the next year they get all the recruits,” Bluder said. “People grow up Iowa State or Iowa fans. I think geography has a lot to do with things. But I don’t know if the outcome has as much bearing on recruiting as us coaches think it does.”
The Cylcones currently lead the Cy-Hawk Series, 9-4, after six events. Iowa got points in football, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country. Iowa’s two wins came in wrestling and soccer. The Hawkeyes can back in the game with wins by the basketball teams this week in Ames.