Nov. 29, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
The No. 1 Notre Dame women’s basketball team will take to a hostile court for the first time in 2016-17 on Wednesday night when it faces Iowa at 9 p.m. EST at the cavernous 15,400-seat Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The contest in a part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge and will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
One matchup to watch will assuredly be on the glass. Iowa ranks 10th in the nation in rebounds and 19th in defensive rebounds while Notre Dame is 16th nationally in rebounds per game, third in rebound margin and 17th in defensive rebounds.
Here are a few more things to know heading into Wednesday’s game.
About the Hawkeyes
Iowa stands at 5-2 so far on the young season and 3-1 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena where the Hawkeyes are historically potent and enjoy strong fan support. The team spent Thanksgiving weekend in Mexico where it went 1-1 in the Cancun Challenge, defeating James Madison, 90-75, but falling to No. 9 UCLA, 78-65. Iowa’s lone home loss came by two points on a Nov. 20 buzzer-beater by South Dakota State.
Megan Gustafson earned a spot on the Cancun Challenge’s all-tournament team. She scored 23 points, connecting on 11 of her 16 shots, with eight rebounds against James Madison after scoring 15 points with seven boards in the loss to the Bruins. Gustafson earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Nov. 14. Ally Disterhoft leads the Hawkeyes at 18.1 points per game so far this young season, just ahead of Gustafson’s 17.6.
Lisa Bluder is in her 17th year as the head coach at Iowa, leading the Hawkeyes to 15 postseason appearances (12 NCAAs and three WNITs). The Hawkeyes have made a postseason appearance in each of the past nine years. A native of Marion, Iowa who has never left her home state, Bluder stands a 684-332 (.673) in her 33-year coaching career that also includes 10 years at Drake University and six more at St. Ambrose University. She played at Northern Iowa and began her coaching career the following year in Davenport with the Queen Bees of St. Ambrose.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
The Iowa game is Notre Dame’s fourth contest as a part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Irish have won each of their first three games representing the ACC in this event. Notre Dame beat No. 10 Penn State, 77-67, in 2013 in Happy Valley, downed No. 15 Maryland, 92-72, in 2014 in Fort Wayne and beat No. 10 Ohio State, 75-72, last Dec. 2 at Purcell Pavilion.
The ACC is 6-0-3 all-time in ACC/Big Ten Challenge events, and holds a 62-46 all-time record against the Big Ten in the Challenge, with the 2011, 2014 and 2015 competitions ending in a tie.
Over Wednesday and Thursday, all 14 Big Ten teams and 14 of the 15 ACC schools (all but Clemson) will face off. The enticing pairings include two matchups of ranked teams as, both on Thursday, No. 5 Maryland plays at No. 7 Louisville and No. 9 Ohio State plays at No. 18 Miami.
In an unusual coincidence, Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team also faces Iowa in the 2016 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Florida State and Minnesota are the only other schools paired for both genders in this year’s challenges.
On The Road At Last
Notre Dame’s equipment managers finally have cause to dust off the blue road uniforms as the Irish will wear them on Wednesday night for the first time in 2016-17. Nov. 30 is the latest that the Irish have played their first true road game of a season since waiting until Dec. 5, 1993, to face Brown in Providence, beating the Bears, 58-54.
The first six games of the year for the Irish saw five true home games played at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center and one other home game played on neutral courts in Houston against Louisiana-Lafayette. Heading into Wednesday night, Notre Dame will be one of 27 teams nationally that have yet to play a true road game, and one of five who will do so on Wednesday. West Virginia will go the longest without playing a true road game, waiting until its Big 12 opener on Dec. 29 at TCU.
The Irish have won their first road game in each of the past four years, beating No. 19 UCLA in 2012-13, Penn in 2013-14, No. 15 Michigan State in 2014-15 and South Dakota State last season. The Irish last lost a road opener on Nov. 20, 2011, 94-81, at No. 1 Baylor. The 1996-97 road opener also came at Iowa with the Irish taking a 61-50 decision from the Hawkeyes on Nov. 17.
Notre Dame will soon get an ample opportunity to test its abilities to win on the road. From Dec. 10 through Jan. 2, the Irish will play six consecutive true road games — establishing a school record. Notre Dame plays on the road successively at No. 15 DePaul (Dec. 10), Toledo (Dec. 18), Michigan State (Dec. 20), Chattanooga (Dec. 27), NC State (Dec. 29) and Georgia Tech (Jan. 2).
During the second quarter of Notre Dame’s win over Green Bay on Nov. 17, senior point guard Lindsay Allen became the 35th Irish player to score 1,000 points in her career and the next one is not far behind her. A 36th member of the 1,000 point club should be coming at Iowa as junior Brianna Turner has 999 points scored in her Irish career, leaving her one shy of the milestone.
Notre Dame last had two players reach the 1,000 career point plateau in the same season in 2013 when Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa each hit the millennial mark. Seven other Irish teams also saw two players hit the milestone but the school record of three was set back in 1985 (Trena Keys, Mary Beth Schueth and Carrie Bates). Notre Dame has seen at least one player reach 1,000 career points in eight of the last nine years with the exception coming in 2014-15.
Allen has since pushed her career total to 1,019, placing her 33rd all-time on the Irish scoring chart, surpassing both Melissa Lechlitner (1,005 from 2006-10) and Kelley Siemon (1,006 from 1997-2001) during the Nov. 20 win over No. 17 Washington.
How to Watch/Listen
Wednesday night’s game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network with Jason Horowitz and Brenda VanLengen handling the call. In addition to the linear broadcast, the game will be available online to all BTN subscribers via BTN2Go. The link for the web stream is available here.
Notre Dame’s local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for Bob Nagle’s broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.