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Women's basketball opens season's second half with Terps B1Ggest challenge to date - Iowa

The journey of Maryland women's basketball toward a possible undefeated season in conference play in their first year in the Big Ten faces its stiffest challenge to date when the (#5 RPI) Iowa Hawkeyes visit College Park.

Courtesy Kai Buck Dambach

WHO: Iowa Hawkeyes (17-3, 8-1) @Maryland Terrapins (18-2, 9-0)

WHAT: Women's basketball B1G Conference game

WHERE: Xfinity Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD

WHEN: Sunday, February 1, 2015 4:00 p.m. ET

WATCH: In Person



Meet the Hawkeyes - Paging Dr. Pierce

Perhaps most of you reading this are familiar with the name James Fenimore Cooper. For those who may not know, here are a few salient facts. Cooper was born in New Jersey in 1789 but was reared in upstate New York where his father had purchased a large piece of land and established a settlement whose name - Cooperstown - has significant resonance with baseball fans.

In his thirties, Cooper wrote several novels known as the Leatherstocking series and in 1826, following the publication of The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper and his family moved to live in Europe for a period of several years. He eventually returned to his paternal home at Cooperstown where he died in 1861.

What, you may wonder, does all of this have to do with the University of Iowa? The answer is this: The hero of the Leatherstocking series is a character named Natty Bumppo. Of the several nicknames applied to the character throughout the series, the best known is Hawkeye. Still no connection to Iowa. Until, according to information on the University's website,

"In 1838, 12 years after the book was published, people in the territory of Iowa acquired the nickname, chiefly through the efforts of Judge David Rorer of Burlington and James G. Edwards of Fort Madison. Edwards, editor of the Fort Madison Patriot, moved his newspaper to Burlington in 1843 and renamed it the Burlington Hawkeye. The two men continued their campaign to popularize the name and were rewarded when territorial officials gave it their formal approval."

Ultimately though, the legitimacy of the connection between Iowa and Hawkeye appears to be on a par with the connection of M*A*S*H's Maine bred character Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce.

The State University of Iowa played its first football game in 1889 and, it appears has always borne the Hawkeyes moniker. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that my (admittedly cursory) research has unearthed no reference to them other than as Hawkeyes.

Colors and Mascot

Like the nickname, the gold color has also been associated with the team from its earliest days. Again using University of Iowa sources:

"At a senior class meeting in spring of 1887, student Marvin H. Dey suggested the university was behind the times?in failing to adopt school colors and a school song. A committee subsequently recommended gold as a school color, and students approved the choice at a mass meeting. A woman present at the meeting took an old gold ribbon from her hair, tore it into pieces, and passed them around as samples.

By 1891, gold had been accepted as Iowa's color, but there was some question as to the shade-old gold or simply gold? A June 1894 election made it official: old gold it was and remains still today."

The issue of the mascot is another story. The team's first mascot appeared in 1908 and was, according to,

"a four-month-old bear cub named Burch. Taken from the Idaho hills and housed under the newly erected cement bleachers at Iowa Field, Burch took his place near the Iowa bench during all home games in 1908 and 1909. Known as "one of the boys," the bear would occasionally dance for the crowd."

He also traveled with the team, as this story from the November 1908 edition of The Iowa Alumnus indicates:

"Iowa's cub bear, ‘Burch,' is a feature of every trip the football team takes. While on the way to Missouri, one of the players was exercising the mascot on a depot platform when a passer-by poked the animal in the back with a stick. ‘Burch' whirled and wrapped his paws around the man's legs. The fellow thought his time had come and called for help so loudly that the city marshal rushed to the scene and threatened to arrest the entire team unless the mascot was muzzled. The boys, however, finally persuaded the officer that such a course was unnecessary."

Burch the bear drowned in the Iowa River in March 1910 and the Hawkeyes remained without a mascot until 1948 when "a cartoon character, later to be named Herky the Hawk, was hatched." The name, by some accounts a reference to Hercules, was bestowed after a statewide contest. Coach Hayden Fry established the now widely recognized Tiger Hawk logo.

I feel compelled to include this one last bit of Iowa lore that I encountered in my research. This 1894 cheer comes courtesy of

Come right this way
I - O - W - A
Football we play
Rush lines we break
Touchdowns we make
We take the cake
Rah! Rah! Rah!

Hawkeyes on the court - 2014-15

For those who believe in RPI as a measure of the quality of an opponent, Iowa will be Maryland's sternest challenge since the Terrapins lost to Notre Dame at the beginning of December. At number five, the Hawkeyes will be the first top ten opponent for the Terps since that game. The flip side is that the Terps will be the first top ten RPI opponent for Iowa since their 86-52 loss at Louisville. Maryland has not dropped a game since their 20-point loss to the Fighting Irish while the Hawkeyes lost once during that span - a 73-61 defeat at Illinois.

Fans of offense should find Sunday's game entertaining. Maryland has scored 265 points over their last three games, while Iowa exploded for 102 in Thursday night's win at Northwestern. The Hawkeyes are an excellent offensive squad. They are second to Maryland in field goal percentage and lead the Big Ten from behind the arc where they shoot 40.3 percent for the season and 38.2 percent in conference play.

Iowa was "in the zone" in their game at Northwestern. The Hawkeyes shot 57 percent from the field, made 19 of their 28 three-point attempts, and 85 percent of their free throws which is nearly 16 percent above their season average. All of this came against what had been one of the Big Ten's best defensive teams. Iowa started their hot shooting in the second half of their come from behind win over Nebraska when they shot nearly 60 percent. So the first question for Maryland fans is whether Iowa is a team finding their stride or if the last three halves will prove something of an outlier and they will regress to their mean on Sunday.

Like all top-level teams, the Hawkeyes will not fold their tents and go away easily if they fall behind. Monday night in Iowa City they trailed Nebraska by 10 with just over 17 minutes to play and came back to eventually win in overtime. The factor that makes the comeback impressive is that the Cornhuskers had won eight straight over the Hawkeyes.

All of this is not to imply that Iowa doesn't have weaknesses Maryland can exploit. The Hawkeyes are not a particularly good defensive squad. They yield 69.7 points per game (ppg) overall and 68.6 ppg in conference play. Those figures are 12th and sixth best, respectively, among B1G teams. While Iowa scores efficiently at 1.04 points per possession their opponents also score efficiently. The Hawkeyes concede 0.93 ppp and at Maryland will be facing the Big Ten's most efficient offensive team - a squad that puts up 1.11 ppp.

Additionally, and there's no polite way to spin this, Iowa is a poor rebounding team. Their opponents out rebound them by 4.4 per game in all games and 3.7 in conference games. Even more concerning for coach Lisa Bluder, the Hawkeyes concede 15 offensive rebounds per game.

Players to watch

Samantha Logic #22, senior, guard, 5'9". Logic may only be fourth on the team in scoring at 11.1 ppg but she is, in every other way, the engine that drives the Hawkeyes. She leads the team in assists (7.3), and steals (1.9) and is tied for the lead in rebounds (6.7). More importantly, she is the emotional core of the squad and is a player who makes those around her better.

Melissa Dixon, #21, senior, guard 5'7". Dixon leads Iowa in scoring, averaging 16.2 points per game. Defensively, Maryland will need to be aware of her wherever she is on the floor as she is the principal reason the Hawkeyes make 40 percent of their three point attempts. Dixon shoots nearly 48 percent from long range and alone accounts for 40 percent of Iowa's attempts. Of her 222 shots on the season, Dixon has taken 165 from three point range.


The Terps and Hawkeyes have never met in the Brenda Frese era. The only meeting between the schools came in 1992 when Iowa came to College Park and left with a 53-50 win. Of course, Maryland head coach Brenda Frese did face the Hawkeyes once during her tenure as head coach at Minnesota. Frese's Golden Gophers traveled to Iowa City and downed the Hawkeyes 94-83.

In conclusion

Iowa is among the most balanced teams Maryland will face. In addition to Logic and Dixon, both Ally Disterhoft (15.4 ppg) and Bethany Doolitle (12.5 ppg) average double figure scoring for the Hawkeyes and freshman Whitney Jennings at 9.8 ppg is close enough to say that Iowa's entire starting five average double digits. It is also an experienced starting five. Dixon, Doolittle, and Logic are all seniors so Iowa will not be easily rattled.

Maryland has a significant size advantage. The 6'4" Doolittle is the only player over 6'1" who sees regular playing time for Iowa. The Terps have been extremely effective on the offensive boards grabbing nearly 18 offensive rebounds per game since the start of Big Ten play while the Hawkeyes concede nearly 15 offensive rebounds per game. Maryland needs to assert that advantage and turn those rebounds into points.

Iowa may be the best three point shooting team in the B1G, but Maryland is the best in the conference at defending the three. Iowa has a number of capable three point shooters and has built their offense around the three point shot - they average 8 made three pointers on 21 attempts per game. The key to slowing that part of their attack would appear to be slowing Melissa Dixon. Of the Hawkeyes' 166 made three pointers, Dixon is the "Hawkeye-iest" of all accounting for 79.

Someone's winning streak will end Sunday. Iowa has won six straight and Maryland twelve. A 13th straight win for the Terrapins would leave the Hawkeyes in second place in the conference two games behind with eight to play and without a head to head meeting remaining in the regular season.