By Richard Podhajsky
IOWA CITY, Iowa - It's certainly a challenge.
But facing top-ranked and defending national champion Notre Dame on Thursday in South Bend, Ind., is also an opportunity for the 14th-ranked Iowa women's basketball team.
“It’s going to be fun,” senior guard Tania Davis said. “It’s the number one team in the country. This presents a big opportunity for us. Obviously, we’re coming off the loss to Florida State, so we’re motivated in that aspect because we want to play better and show the world that we’re a lot better than what we displayed down in the Bahamas against Florida State.
“So, this is a great opportunity for us on the road.”
The Hawkeyes are coming off an up-and-down weekend in the Bahamas, mounting a record-setting comeback to win the first game before falling in the second. Head coach Lisa Bluder says the challenge is playing the best you can each game, and they're going to need that in this game.
“I think this group just likes challenges,” Bluder said. “I think they like every challenge and every opportunity. And, so, it doesn’t matter really if it’s number one or Florida State or Western Kentucky or Iowa State, the just like challenges.”
The game, which is being televised nationally on ESPN2, could also serve as a national spotlight game for Iowa, specifically preseason All-American senior center Megan Gustafson. Already known as unselfish player despite averaging better than 23 points per game, Gustafson says she's not looking at this as any sort of personal highlight reel.
“Knowing (it’s nationally televised), I just gotta focus on the team and what the team needs,” Gustafson said. “And if that’s for me to have a big night, then it is. But if that’s for me to pass it to the open person because I’m getting double- or triple-teamed, then that’s what it’s going to be. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”
It likely won't be a one-woman show for Notre Dame, either - they have four players averaging at least 14 points per game.
If the challenge wasn't big enough, Bluder says her team will still be shorthanded on Thursday, with Kathleen Doyle not yet ready to return from a broken hand.
Thursday's game tips off at 6 p.m.