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Hawks set to defend homecourt in shootout with Cyclones

BY KYLE MANN | DECEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Home, sweet home.

When the No. 24 Iowa women’s basketball team collides with cross-state rival Iowa State today, it will do so from the position that has quite predictably determined the winner in recent history of the series —12 of the last 13 meetings, including the last seven, have been won by the home team.

So Iowa, which stands at 6-0 at home this season, will enjoy quite the home-court advantage. Iowa State comes into Carver-Hawkeye Arena as a dangerous opponent, however, and the Hawkeyes don’t expect any favors, regardless of where the game is played.

“I feel comfort in it, not to the effect that we’re going to take anything for granted, but I love playing at home,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I love playing at Carver-Hawkeye Arena; I think we’ve got great fans, and our players love playing here. So we’re going to use it.”

As Bluder noted, the Hawkeyes will need to be careful not to simply expect a win, particularly because the Cyclones are a team that could give them some issues. The teams excel in many of the same areas and have similar playing styles, but despite a uniquely formidable matchup for point guard Sam Logic, Iowa sees opportunities to capitalize elsewhere.

Thursday’s game will feature Logic, the NCAA’s active leader in assists (677), versus Nikki Moody, who is second with 581.

Both coaches obviously require ball movement, but Bluder’s offense is characterized most notably by tempo and 3-point shooting, and the team has performed well in those areas so far this season. Iowa ranks No. 23 nationally in points per game with 80.9 and is also No. 11 in 3-point shooting at an even 40-percent.

That said, however, the Cyclones are slightly better at No. 20 in scoring offense with 81.3 points per game, and they also sport a dangerous attack from outside. Shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc, they are ranked No. 41, but with a whopping 42-percent of all of their field goals coming from distance, they can at times make up for the extra misses with sheer volume.

As it is, today’s duel could prove to be a shootout. Iowa’s Melissa Dixon would likely lead such an attack, as the country’s ninth-most prolific 3-point shooter with 3.4 makes per game. She also leads the nation in three-point percentage (44.3-percent) among players with 70 or more attempts.

“Obviously, we would love to outshoot anyone we play,” Dixon said. “So that’s always a goal. But we have to get stops on defense. Everything starts on defense because we’re not going to get our open looks or push in transition if we don’t get those stops.”

Should it come about that the 3s aren’t falling, or perhaps that Bluder simply wants to switch things up, the Hawkeyes also smell blood in the waters down low around Bethany Doolittle.

“We have a veteran post. Their post is a freshman. She’s playing well, don’t get me wrong, and she’s bigger than Beth,” Bluder said. “But Beth with her experience, that’s a good thing for Beth. And she’s got a little more quickness.”

Doolittle’s services will be in high demand, because as has been the case throughout the year, the Hawkeyes enter this game facing a rebounding disparity. Doolittle, averaging 10.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, believes the team is ready to answer the call.

“Especially coming off the Colorado win, our team has a lot of confidence,” she said. “We bounced back from that Louisville game really well, and we’ve been working on aggressiveness, rebounding, and defense in practice. That’ll help us a lot.”

Follow @KyleFMann for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.


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