WBB: Home Court Means Lots To This Cy-Hawk Series

By Jeff Linder, Reporter

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder disagrees with a charging call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northern Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Brian Ray)

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By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Recent history provides a little comfort to Lisa Bluder.

But just a little.

"Being at home is a nice advantage, but it doesn't mean an automatic win," Bluder said at Wednesday's press conference. "I wish it was the case, but I'm smarter than that."

The Iowa State-Iowa women's basketball series has carried a consistent theme in the past decade: The home team wins.

Since the 2001-02 season, the home team has claimed victory 10 times in 11 games. And Thursday's renewal is at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.

It's the first road game of the season for 22nd-ranked Iowa State (5-0).

"It’s odd that our first true road game is in Iowa City, but you might as well get a hard one right out of the chute," said Cyclones Coach Bill Fennelly.

Not only does the home team generally win in this series, it usually wins decisively. Only one game of the last 23 has gone down to the wire -- a 101-94 overtime win for ISU in 2003.

When the Cyclones last visited Carver, in 2010, Iowa rolled to a 62-40 victory and Fennelly literally stumbled on his way out of the press conference.

"I remember what happened the last time we were there. We definitely embarrassed outselves," said ISU's Anna Prins.

ISU won last year, 62-54, at Ames.

Iowa (6-3), which will wear black uniforms in a regular-season home game for the first time on Thursday, has another advantage -- its schedule. The Hawkeyes have faced four top-30 teams, ISU none.

"That definitely helps us," said Iowa's Jaime Printy, who will be playing the Cyclones for the fourth and final time. "We've been tested a lot. We've had some hard, physical games."

Thursday's game will determine the mythical state championship. ISU already has routed Drake, and Iowa has handled Northern Iowa.

Iowa State is balanced (all five starters score in double figures) and tall. The Cyclones' front line of Prins, Hallie Christofferson and Chelsea Poppens stands 6-foot-7, 6-3 and 6-2.

"It will definitely be a challenge, but I think we can overcome it," said Iowa's Bethany Doolittle, who teams with Morgan Johnson for a 6-5 and 6-4 post tandem.

Johnson leads the Hawkeyes at 18.4 points per game and is the school's all-time leading shot blocker. She has scored in double figures in every game this season.

There doesn't appear to be much love between Bluder and Fennelly, but there is respect.

"I’m not going to lie and say we’re the best of friends," Fennelly said. "We have a mutual respect. It’s competitive. It’s just the way this business is, I think."

When Bluder heard Fennelly's words and was asked to respond, she said, "I would say that's definitely accurate. What he has done there has been amazing, with their fan support and their winning.

"But, no, we're probably not going to go out for dinner together."

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