If there’s any time for a team to get hot, it would be now, and the IU women’s basketball team is getting hot at the right time.
The Hoosiers have rallied off eight straight games and find themselves tied for sixth in the Big Ten standings with Michigan and Purdue. With the Big Ten Tournament approaching in one week, IU has one challenge left.
Saturday in Iowa City, IU will face the Hawkeyes for the first time this year.
Iowa sits at fourth in the Big Ten with a 10-5 conference record and overall record of 22-6. They most recently defeated Rutgers in overtime in Piscataway, New Jersey, 77-67.
In that game, the Hawkeyes came back after trailing by 12 points in the second half. It took a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Kathleen Doyle with nine seconds left to tie the game and force overtime.
That wasn’t how the Hawkeyes clawed back into the game, however. The majority of Iowa’s points came from the high-low action they run with senior forward Chase Coley and junior forward Megan Gustafson.
Gustafson leads the Big Ten in points per game with 24.9, rebounds per game with 12.7, and field goal percentage at 66 percent. What makes her high-low action with Coley difficult to guard is that Coley can shoot from the elbow, making it a challenge to double down on the 6-foot-3 Gustafson.
“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for our post players,” IU Coach Teri Moren said. “It’s difficult to double down in a high-low situation. A lot of their entry passes are made from the top of the key, and it’s hard to double that.”
Moren said junior forward Kym Royster and freshman forward Lindsey Marchese are going to have to do a good job on Gustafson and stay out of early foul trouble.
Freshman guard Bendu Yeaney, who had a double-double in IU’s last game against Minnesota with 11 points and 10 rebounds, isn’t worried about the post presence of Gustafson.
“We’re going to stop her just like we’ve stopped every other post or guard,” Yeaney said.
The confidence of that statement from Yeaney represented the confidence this IU team has right now after a lossless month of play.
The Hoosiers are 16-12 overall and 9-6 in the Big Ten. Senior guard Tyra Buss has been at the forefront of their wins lately, scoring a total of 73 points in the last two games alone.
Yeaney said she doesn’t know how Buss is doing this right now. She jokingly credited it to Buss’ pregame naps.
Due to Buss’ hot streak, Moren said she wouldn’t be surprised if Iowa tried a box-and-one defense to slow her down. Even if the Hawkeyes try that, Moren won’t stop going to her star point guard.
“I would just continue to challenge Iowa and stay with Tyra,” Moren said. “We can run a lot of things to get her loose, but Tyra is hard to catch and any challenge like that she is up to.”
If, however, the Hawkeyes are able to deny Buss the ball, Moren said she is confident to put it in the hands of Yeaney and freshman guard Jaelynn Penn to set the offense.
If the Hoosiers can beat Iowa, they can possibly move up to the third seed in the Big Ten Tournament with losses from Michigan, Nebraska and Minnesota. Right now, IU would be eighth, and even with a loss Saturday, cannot drop any lower than that.
“I’ve never put a ceiling on any of our teams,” Moren said. “There is no limit. We are just going to continue to get better and play together and hopefully stay confident and see where we can go.”
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