Alexa Kastanek was almost a Cornhusker.
A top-100 national recruit coming out of Southeast High School in Lincoln, Neb., Kastanek gave serious consideration to staying in Lincoln and playing for her home state school.
Ultimately, Kastanek choose Iowa and will get her first crack at playing against the school she grew up miles away from when Nebraska visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a 2 p.m. tipoff Saturday.
“It was a tough decision. Obviously the home state team, you have to take them into consideration,” Kastanek said of choosing Iowa over Nebraska. “They were definitely up there in the final decision and (Nebraska coach) Connie (Yori) was great when I told her I was coming here, and she said she couldn’t wait to play me, so it will be fun.”
Kastanek is hoping she will be a key factor in helping the Hawkeyes snap a losing-skid against the Cornhuskers.
Iowa (17-5, 5-3 Big Ten) hasn’t beaten Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten for the 2011-2012 season.
Nebraska has won six straight over the Hawkeyes since joining the conference, winning three games over Iowa each of the past two seasons.
“They have been a thorn in our side ever since they’ve joined the Big Ten,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “They are a team that we defeated when they weren’t in the Big Ten, when they were in the Big 12, but since they have been in the Big Ten we have not gotten a victory against them yet. So here is a great opportunity for us playing at home.”
Kastanek hopes to help snap that streak Saturday.
The freshman point guard is averaging five points in 13 minutes of action a game in her first season at Iowa, but has watched her playing time and production spike over the past several weeks.
The 5-foot-10 Kastanek is averaging nearly 15 minutes and seven points over the past four games, helping Iowa has go 3-1 during in that stretch.
Kastanek had a personal Big Ten-high 10 points in a road win Jan. 19 at Ohio State on 4-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
In the last three games, Kastanek has hit 4-of-7 3-pointers.
“Every time I got out there, I feel a little more comfortable,” Kastanek said. “Against Indiana the first game it wasn’t really clicking, but I gradually just kept getting better and better.”
Following a few unfamiliar months getting used to the rigors of Big Ten basketball, Kastanek is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces in today’s game.
Kastanek played summer basketball with Nebraska starter Emily Cady and reserve guards Hannah Tvrdy and Sadie Murren.
“I’m really excited because I have never played against those girls. I’ve only played with them,” Kastanek said. “It will be fun to play against them and see how we match up.”
Kastanek also grew up watching Nebraska’s all-Big Ten forward Jordan Hooper.
Hooper’s Alliance High School team defeated a Crete squad that featured Kastanek’s older sister, Marissa, in the state championship game in 2007.
Slowing Hooper will be a key today if the Hawkeyes are to win their fourth straight conference game.
The 6-foot-2 senior ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring at 19.4 points per game and is second in the conference in rebounding at 9.9 per game.
“She is a great player. She has a great shot, great size and is a mismatch for a lot of people,” Iowa junior Samantha Logic said of Hooper. “She is just one of those players that you want to contain, you just want to limit them because you aren’t going to be able to shut them down completely.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball