Iowa women’s basketball poised for improvement in first away game of season

In the first away game for Iowa women’s basketball this season, the Hawkeyes are ready for a quality team in Western Kentucky.

This is an important test for head coach Lisa Bluder’s team. Because Western Kentucky earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament last season, the matchup will be a good gauge about where this Iowa team stands early on.

That has not eluded Bluder and the Hawkeyes.

“[The players] have something to prove,” the coach said.

There are some key differences between the squads that will be fun for fans to watch.

The Lady Toppers have a new head coach in Greg Collins, a longtime assistant in the program. Of course, Bluder is a long-tenured head coach for the Hawkeyes, now in her 19th season.

So, the game could prove to be a difficult test for Iowa.

Western Kentucky has faced a top-10 squad already this season in Louisville. While it ended in a loss, several different playmakers proved they could cause issues for highly ranked opponents.

Western Kentucky is, in part, led by junior Dee Givens, who put up 18 points against Louisville. Through two games this season, Givens has shot 54 percent from 3-point land.

This could cause issues for the Hawkeyes, who struggled defending the 3-ball in their first game. Iowa was successful in a lot of ways in the first test, but against Oral Roberts, there were a lot of ways in which the team could improve.

One of these, Bluder noted, was contesting 3-pointers more closely. The Hawkeyes dominated the boards for the majority of the game but were largely unable to stop the 3-point game of Oral Roberts in the second half. 

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That allowed Oral Roberts to outscore the Hawkeyes, 54-41, in the second half, after facing a 26-point deficit after the first. This was with much of Iowa’s starting rotation in for the majority of the matchup.

“Some of [the allowed 3-pointers] were miscommunication errors, and I do think those can be corrected,” Bluder said in a release.

Iowa must contest these types of shots if it is to separate itself as a top team in the country.

But what it lacks on perimeter defense, it certainly makes up in other facets.

In the matchup against the Golden Eagles, the Hawkeyes out-rebounded them, 49-29. This is a massive margin, and it allowed Iowa to take the second-chance opportunities away from Oral Roberts early.

No surprise, this was largely because of Megan Gustafson’s dominance; she grabbed a game-leading 17 rebounds.

The offense is firing on all cylinders as well, even with the absence of injured guard Kathleen Doyle. The Hawkeyes still shot 54 percent on 3-pointers with the help of Tania Davis, who was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

As has been the case under Bluder, the players know their roles well. This helps create open shots and allows players to be effective in different situations. An example of that is commonly seen when teams attempt to double-team Gustafson, freeing up other producers on the court.

“[Gustafson] knows those are assists [she’s] going to get to her teammates,” forward Hannah Stewart said after the win in the season-opener. “I know what my role is, and sometimes that means to be open when the defense goes and guards Megan.”

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