Emotion is a big part of any college basketball game.
Throw in the added incentive of facing an in-state rival and the emotions kick up another notch.
When the in-state rival is a program you coached for 10 years and is currently led by one of your former players, you end up in the emotional condition that Iowa coach Lisa Bluder will find herself today when No. 22 Iowa (10-2) and Drake (5-4) meet for the 46th time.
“This one is always a little bit more emotional than the other ones,” Bluder said. “Even though I played at UNI, this one still has more emotion for me.”
Former Iowa standout and second-year Drake coach Jennie (Lillis) Baranczyk will be returning to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time as a head coach when the two in-state rivals square off at 4 p.m. today.
Baranczyk was a three-time all-Big 10 selection while playing for Bluder at Iowa, while Bluder spent 10 years leading the Bulldogs, collecting 187 of her 617 career wins at Drake.
The connections between the two schools don’t stop there.
Iowa assistants Jan Jensen and Jenni Fitzgerald both played at Drake and were on Bluder’s staff during her time leading the Bulldogs.
Jensen is one of only two Drake women’s players to have her uniform retired, and both Jensen and Fitzgerald received the Drake Double D award, the highest honor Drake awards to a student-athlete.
“The Drake game is more emotional for us because all of us on the coaching staff spent time there,” Bluder said. “Jan and Jenni were there for eight years and I was there for a decade and that is a long time when you are at a place for a decade. Those are roots that you have in that community in that school.
Baranczyk, who ranks fifth in career scoring at Iowa and fifth in career blocks, brings an improving Drake squad to Carver-Hawkeye Arena today.
The Bulldogs have won their last three games and are coming off a 87-71 win over SIU Edwardsville.
Bluder sees some of the same characteristics in this year’s Drake team that she saw in Baranczyk during her playing days.
“She was a tremendous player for us and a tremendous competitor,” Bluder said. “She brings the same type of competitiveness to her coaching that she did as leading us in rebounding.”
Iowa will be trying to rebound from its second loss of the season, an 83-70 setback Dec. 12 at Iowa State.
In order to do that, Iowa will need to slow Drake junior Kyndal Clark, who is averaging 21.7 points during the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak.
Clark had 35 points in the win over SIU Edwardsville.
Iowa, meanwhile, will be trying to bounce back from the Iowa State loss in which the Hawkeyes had a season-low eight assists while committing 18 turnovers, their second highest total this season.
“I will cheer for Drake every single game of the year except for this one,” Bluder said. “But this one, obviously, we are out to win.”
The coaching staffs aren’t the only ones with extra ties to today’s game.
Freshman Ally Disterhoft and sophomore Claire Till will both be facing their mothers’ alma mater today.
Disterhoft’s mother, Missy, and Till’s mother, Shelly, both played at Drake and were teammates of both Jensen and Fitzgerald.
“It’s not so much that it’s her alma mater. All of our coaches went there, too, but it’s another Iowa school and it’s our last game before we go home for break,” Till said. “Just like any other game, they are all big so we really have to have that focus again and just go out and play Iowa basketball.”
Disterhoft, who ranks fourth on the team in scoring at 11.7 points per game, grew up an Iowa fan but said her mother’s allegiance won’t be in question today.
“My mom will definitely we rooting for the Hawks,” Disterhoft said. “No worries there.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball