Dec. 5, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa women's basketball team has enjoyed the scenery of the Rocky Mountains and the sandy beaches of the Caribbean Sea the last couple weeks, but is excited to be back home in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Following a three-point loss at No. 16 Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Nov. 20, the Hawkeyes won at Northern Iowa, 67-60, on Nov. 20. Iowa then traveled to the Cancun Challenge and finished with a 3-0 mark, defeating all three opponents -- Southern California (78-65), Boston College (78-68), and UNC-Wilmington (102-65) -- by double digits to win the Mayan Division.
The 25th-ranked Hawkeyes return to Iowa City on a four-game winning streak (the second-longest in the Big Ten), with an overall mark of 8-1. Iowa is off to its best start in three seasons, when it started the 2010-11 campaign with a 12-1 record.
"It always feels good to be playing at home," said UI head coach Lisa Bluder. "We love playing at home; we have a good winning advantage at Carver. We love the Hawkeye fans; they support us so well. This game should be a lot of fun."
"We are playing well right now," said junior Samantha Logic. "We faced some good opponents the last couple weeks away from home. Now we have to be ready to take on Syracuse. We are excited to be back in Carver-Hawkeye Arena."
Tonight, the streaking Hawkeyes host No. 22 Syracuse in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The contest, designated as a `Blackout' game, can be seen live on the Big Ten Network.
"This is an important week for us," said Bluder. "We're excited and off to a good start being 8-1, but we know a great opponent lies in front of us in Syracuse. They're ranked No. 22 in the country, but they could be much higher."
Bluder and the Hawkeyes are happy the contest is in Iowa City.
"This is a team that was in the NCAA Tournament last year, they were young, their sophomores were All-Americans coming out of high school, and they're playing like it," said Bluder. "They're shooting the 3-ball, force a lot of turnovers, and press the entire game. It's a different style than we've seen. I am glad it's in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and I think we'll have a great crowd on Thursday night."
Iowa has not played in Iowa City since Nov. 17.
"We've been away for so long," said Bluder. "We're both coming off trips where we were traveling out of the country and having three games in three days. Having the game at Carver, especially if we have a great crowd, will help us."
"It is really nice to be back in Iowa City," said junior Melissa Dixon. "We are back in our own beds and practicing back at Carver is so much better. We are used to it here, and love playing in front of the Hawkeye fans."
Dixon caught fire in the Cancun Challenge, making 15 3-point field goals in three contests en route to Mayan Division MVP honors. She tied the school record for 3-pointers in a game on Nov. 30 against UNC-Wilmington, sinking seven long balls.
She hopes to continue her hot streak in a familiar setting.
"We shoot here all the time, and are used to Carver," said Dixon, who increased her scoring average by four points during the trip to Cancun. "It was nice to get my shot going down there, but it will be nice to hit some shots at Carver in front of the home fans."
Tickets are $10 for adults. Youth -- high school-aged and younger --- are admitted free to all weekday games, while weekend games are $6. Youth -- five years old and younger -- are admitted free to all games, and UI students are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased online at hawkeyesports.com, over the phone at 1-800 IA-HAWKS, and at the UI Athletics Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.