LINCOLN — Alexa Kastanek started every game of her high school basketball career at Lincoln Southeast. Night after night, she was the steadiest Knight of the bunch.
Yet there’s a bounce in her voice Thursday afternoon as she talks after an Iowa practice. She hasn’t started in her freshman year for the Hawkeyes. Considering her mentor, versatile point guard Sam Logic, is a junior, Kastanek may not be a full-time starter next season, either. But she loves it in Iowa City.
“I know my role, and it’s been really fun,” said the 5-foot-10 Kastanek, who averages five points and 13.3 minutes per game. “When Sam’s in foul trouble, I’m the backup point guard, and I try to get the best shot for the offense.”
While she’s “learned a lot” from Logic, Kastanek said she’s worked some at the No. 2 guard spot, too. The goal there: Play defense and hit shots when they’re available. Despite limited minutes, she still has 18 steals for the season.
Saturday, Kastanek will come off the bench against an array of familiar faces in red jerseys when Nebraska pays a 2 p.m. visit to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Kastanek played summer club basketball with several current Huskers — including starting forward Emily Cady. Offered by Iowa as an eighth-grader, Kastanek chose the Hawkeyes in December 2011 over Nebraska, among other schools.
It’s the last time Iowa beat the Huskers in much of anything involving women’s basketball. Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, it’s 6-0 against Iowa. Two in Lincoln. Two in Iowa City. Two in the Big Ten tournament. High-scoring games. Low-scoring games.
They’re scheduled to play each other just once in the regular season this year. The Huskers have seen the game as a rivalry. After NU beat Iowa last February, Hawkeye coach Lisa Bluder suggested the game wasn’t as important to her team as it was for the Huskers.
“For Nebraska, it’s the Border War, but we have a lot of Border Wars,” Bluder said at the time. “So it’s not like maybe the intensity that Nebraska feels.”
Kastanek personally feels the intensity for Saturday — and not because it’s the Huskers.
“It’s never fun to lose to a team six straight times,” Kastanek said. “Yeah, Nebraska’s a powerhouse, but if we lost to anyone six times in a row, we wouldn’t like it.”
Is there a key to reversing the trend? Kastanek said Iowa has to play its game. Generally, the high-octane Hawkeyes play well when their defense gets steals and they hit 3-pointers, which opens up post Bethany Doolittle in the paint — and “try to forget” the Huskers’ winning streak.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a close game,” Kastanek said. “It’s not going to be a blowout. We just have to make plays.”