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COLLEGE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Busy opening week awaits Hawkeye women

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Iowa Media Day Basketball

Iowa women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder welcomed her entire team back to practice Tuesday, the Hawkeyes' first since a COVID pause halted the season on Nov. 19.

As a season filled with lofty expectations opens, the Iowa women’s basketball team is hoping for a quick start.

The ninth-ranked Hawkeyes have little choice.

Iowa begins the season by playing three games in six days, an early test of sorts beginning with a 6 p.m. game Tuesday against New Hampshire.

A match-up with Samford follows at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday before the Hawkeyes face their first road test with a 2 p.m. game Sunday at Northern Iowa.

“It’s a busy week,’’ Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “It won’t be easy because there will not be a lot of time to prep for any of these games and going to UNI on Sunday, that’s always a tough place for us to play and always a hard game.’’

But before even thinking about the first of its instate match-ups, the Hawkeyes are concerning themselves with setting a tone during their first regular-season games in front of fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in two years.

“It’s going to be great to get back to having a home-court advantage,’’ junior McKenna Warnock said. “Our fans add a lot to the games. I think we really realized that last year when we had to bring our own energy.’’

Both teams Iowa hosts this week feature veteran lineups.

Like the Hawkeyes, New Hampshire returns all five starters from last season and Samford has four starters back.

"I think our players are looking forward to getting out and competing against somebody else,'' Bluder said. "We need to play games and see where we're at.''

Iowa will have a size advantage in its opener against a team that finished 5-15 a year ago and Bluder hopes that leads to a strong start from Monika Czinano in the post.

The nation’s top shooter a year ago at 66.8 percent from the field returns after averaging 19.3 points per game last season as the inside complement to the 26.6 points per game scored by Caitlin Clark on the outside.

With center Sharon Goodson sidelined for the season with an ACL tear, senior Logan Cook and freshman Addison O’Grady will back-up Czinano and Bluder would like to get both some minutes early in the season.

“We have a height advantage and we need to use it,’’ Bluder said. “We need to get the ball inside and make the most of it.’’

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