IOWA CITY, Iowa – Lisa Bluder grew up in Iowa, and her college coaching career has been spent only at in-state schools.
So she understands the passion for the sport that spreads from the Mississippi to the Missouri rivers. That love for the game is on display in the Iowa Hawkeyes coach's own arena, and it serves as fuel for her team.
The No. 19 Hawkeyes (15-3, 6-1 Big Ten) are tied for first in the conference and carry a 30-game home winning streak into their game against Ohio State on Thursday night. It’s the second-longest active streak in Division I — Baylor leads with 49 consecutive home wins.
“We talk about defending our home court,” senior guard Kathleen Doyle said. “It’s just a great opportunity when you get to play in front of your home fans, sleep in your bed the night before the game, things like that.”
Iowa ranks 11th nationally in average attendance at 5,940. Last season, when the Hawkeyes made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, they averaged 6,797 fans, ninth-best in the nation.
Iowa was host for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament last season. Attendance in the two sessions — 10,720 for the first round, 12,376 for the second — was the best for any women’s tournament site for the first two rounds.
Bluder, a native of nearby Marion, grew up when the state’s high school teams played six-on-six basketball, when the court was split in half, with three offensive and three defensive players.
The fan interest at the high school level isn’t quite the same now with teams playing five-on-five, and Bluder understands that. But it hasn’t hurt college attendance around the state. Iowa State ranked No. 2 nationally last season at 9,573, and the Cyclones are third this season at 9,500.