At the beginning of the year, Iowa’s game against IUPUI looked like a built-in break in the schedule. The Hawks would be coming off a recent stretch of games that included traveling to #1 Notre Dame, and playing a pesky Iowa State team at home. They would soon face in-state rivals Northern Iowa and Drake to close out the non-conference. IUPUI, then, was a team they could schedule to get an almost guaranteed win at home.
Iowa got more than they bargained for in this one. First, IUPUI was actually a stronger opponent than expected. The Jaguars came into the game at 6-2, including a win over Ole Miss, and a one point loss to Wisconsin in overtime. Second, IUPUI posed a style contrast to the Hawkeyes, as they prefer to slow the game down and play offense in the half court. Pair those two factors with some tough IUPUI defense, and it was a recipe that made Iowa sweat for much of the day.
Iowa jumped out to a 19-16 lead after the first quarter, thanks to an advantage in the post. Iowa’s combination of Megan Gustafson and Hannah Stewart had over half the team’s first quarter points. Then Stewart got in foul trouble, IUPUI swarmed Gustafson, and Iowa’s offense sputtered. The Jaguars, meanwhile, kept chipping away offensively, doing enough to take a 33-31 lead into halftime. The Jaguars led for much of the third quarter too, before Iowa managed to take a 48-46 lead late in the third quarter.
In the fourth, Gustafson finally got going. She found openings in the post, converted more of her shot attempts, and got to the line when she wasn’t making baskets. Iowa also played tighter defense, and went on a run mid-quarter to draw their lead into double-digits. They held on from there, and ultimately defeated IUPUI 72-58.
Gustafson led the way for Iowa with 32 points and 10 rebounds on 12-17 shooting and 8-10 from the free throw line. Many of those baskets and free throws came late in the game, as she started only 5-9 from the field with few free throw attempts. Stewart was the only other Hawkeye in double figures with 10. She played only 19 minutes in this one. A full box score is here.
3 Point Watch
A big reason Iowa struggled offensively for so long, aside from the game’s slower tempo, was their lack of three point shooting. Iowa went 1-14 from three in this one, and in the second half they were sometimes passing up wide open shots because they lacked confidence that they could make them.
The result of that poor shooting was that IUPUI didn’t double team Gustafson in the post as much to start. Instead, other defenders sagged way off their marks, and swarmed Gustafson anytime she touched the ball. Gustafson was clearly frustrated in the second and third quarters by the defense, and it resulted in her missing several shots she normally wouldn’t.
IUPUI’s defense playing way off also clogged the lanes, making dribble penetration nearly impossible. Between not shooting well and not having lanes to the basket, Iowa’s guards posed almost no scoring threat for much of the night.
As strong as Iowa’s posts are, the offense’s efficiency really does start with the guards. If the guards aren’t shooting it well from three, everything becomes exponentially harder offensively. Sometimes, as with today’s 4th quarter, Gustafson can save the day because she’s just that good. Other times, even her All-American efforts aren’t enough.
Iowa returns to action at home next Sunday, December 16th at 2 PM CT against Northern Iowa. The Panthers are 5-3 this season, including a 53-40 win over IUPUI on the road.