The first game of a team’s season is always nervy, regardless of opponent. It’s been months since the players have played in a game that’s truly meant anything. Key players from last year’s team are gone, and new players are stepping into unfamiliar roles. The opponent, meanwhile, is thinking upset. A slow start will only grow their confidence and make them truly start to believe a win is possible.
Luckily for Iowa, there was no such slow start in this one. The Hawks jumped out to a 27-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, and extended that to 49-23 at the half.
Iowa then went into coast mode in the second half. Their defense got a little lax, they were too careless with the ball, and Oral Roberts got hot from 3. The Golden Eagles won the 3rd quarter by 5 points and the 4th by 8. While the second half in general wasn’t great for Iowa, the result was never really in doubt, and they ultimately went home with a 90-77 victory.
Iowa’s scoring in this one was fairly balanced, with 4 starters in double figures. Megan Gustafson led the way with 23 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 blocks. For most players, that would easily be a career day, but it’s probably not a top 10 stat line for Gustafson’s college career. She’s that good.
Fellow post Hannah Stewart also had a good night, scoring 19 points and adding 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Alexis Sevillian and Makenzie Meyer rounded out Iowa’s double-digit scorers with 18 and 13 respectively. A link to the box score is here.
3 Point Watch
Since I think 3 point shooting will be Iowa’s X-Factor this year, it seems like a worthwhile stat to monitor going forward. Tonight, Iowa shot 7-13 from 3, good for 53.8%. Obviously that’s an outstanding shooting percentage, and one that Hawkeyes will take every time they step on the floor.
The number of attempts is pretty low, though, especially for how well Iowa was shooting. Part of that was Iowa’s obvious post advantage, but I’d still like to see the guards pull the trigger more when they’re open for 3. As well as Iowa’s starting guards shoot, an open three earlier in the possession might be better than a contested shot from the post late in the shot clock. The open threes should also create more space inside later on, too.
In my roster preview, I questioned whether Amanda Ollinger might play some post this year. She seemed to have a skill-set well suited for the position, despite not really playing there her freshman and sophomore years. Tonight, Ollinger played most of her 14 minutes as a post, and did well, scoring 5 points and adding 7 rebounds. I’d guess she’ll still play on the wing from time to time, but I think Coach Bluder made the right decision in switching her primary position, given the construction of the roster.
Though the second half wasn’t great, I’m not particularly worried about it. Clearly Iowa had the game won in the first half, barring everything going wrong. Oral Roberts was also boosted by a mean reversion in their shooting. They shot a staggering 38 three pointers in this one, connecting on 16 of them, including 14 in the second half. They were forced into those shots because they didn’t have the size or speed to do damage inside against Iowa’s defense. The Golden Eagles’ three point shooting was a big reason they fell into such a hole in the first half, and was also the reason they played much better in the second half.