Through three quarters, Kathleen Doyle was having a night to forget. She hadn’t made a basket, had several turnovers, and had just missed on several steal attempts that could’ve tipped the balance in a close game against Indiana. Heading to the fourth quarter, it would’ve been easy for her to give up—to become passive offensively and stop taking defensive chances that could gift Indiana easy baskets or fouls.
Instead, Doyle made several key plays that helped spur Iowa’s decisive run in a 70-61 victory.
Doyle’s first big play came with just under 5 minutes to play in the game. At that time, Iowa held a narrow 56-54 lead after a Tania Davis three pointer. Doyle matched up with a bigger Indiana guard intent on driving to the basket. She played the Indiana guard close enough that she was forced to push off as she entered the lane. The referees saw the push off and whistled Indiana for an offensive foul, earning Iowa a crucial stop.
Iowa’s next offensive possession broke down. Indiana played a tight zone intent on shutting down the paint, and Iowa was in the midst of another possession where they could neither penetrate nor pass though it. Doyle ended up with the ball at the top of the three point arch with only second remaining on the shot clock. She used a Gustafson screen to draw a little space for herself, then jacked a long desperation jumper before the clock struck zero. Somehow, the shot went down.
Back on defense, Indiana needed an answer, so they turned to their point guard and leading scorer Ali Patberg. Patberg had crushed Iowa in Bloomington a couple weeks ago, and was in the midst of hitting more big jumpers tonight. This time, she didn’t connect. Instead, Doyle guarded her close in the possession, then blocked her jumper. Indiana didn’t get another shot off in the ensuing scramble, and the Hoosiers turned it over again on a shot clock violation.
In three possessions, Kathleen Doyle helped swing the score and momentum of the game on both ends of the floor. And she wasn’t done. With a minute and a half to play, Doyle hit her first three pointer of the night to momentarily extend Iowa’s lead to 7. It looked like Iowa finally had the edge they needed.
But Indiana fought back. They raced down the floor and hit a three pointer of their own to bring Iowa’s lead back down to four. They then played tight defense and forced a stop to get the ball back with just over a minute to play. Another Indiana basket would make things way too close for comfort in the closing stretch.
Luckily for Iowa, Indiana never got another bucket. As Indiana tried for a pull-up jumper to bring Iowa’s lead to 2, Doyle was there again with another critical block. Iowa got the ball back and got fouled immediately. The Hawks were rock solid at the line in the game’s final moments, and ultimately came away with the 9-point victory.
Megan Gustafson led Iowa with 30 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 blocks. When Gustafson got the ball in the paint, it was over; Iowa just struggled to actually get it to her. Makenzie Meyer was Iowa’s only other double digit scorer with 12. She went 4-9 from three in the game, which is hopefully a sign that she’s heating up from three again. Iowa will need her shot over the next couple days and weeks. A box score for the game is here.
A fairly sloppy game for Iowa, as they had 13 turnovers (7 in the first quarter) and struggled for large stretches to get Gustafson touches in the paint. Still, Iowa pulled out the win they needed against the only Big Ten opponent they hadn’t defeated in the regular season. Iowa also shot 7-16 (43.8%) from three in this one, which is better than they’ve shot the deep ball in quite some time.
NCAA Tournament Watch
Coming into conference tournament week, the NCAA Selection Committee had Iowa pegged as a #2 seed and the 8th best team in the country. I don’t think it’s possible for Iowa to earn a #1 seed, so let’s instead look at the teams trying to knock them off the number 2 line:
- #9 North Carolina State
- #10 Maryland
- #11 Oregon State
- #12 South Carolina
- #13 Miami
- #14 Iowa State
- #15 Syracuse
It’s still early in conference tournament play, but already a couple upsets have gone in Iowa’s favor. First, South Carolina fell to unranked Arkansas in the SEC Tournament. Then, in the ACC, Syracuse knocked off Miami. Though 'Cuse is also one of the teams listed above, they are further back than Miami, and would probably need two more major upsets to threaten Iowa for a two seed.
Realistically, Iowa’s competition for a two seed now is likely down to NC State, Maryland and Oregon State. If those teams fall without winning another game, Iowa’s win today might’ve been enough to secure them the #2 seed without another conference tournament victory.
Iowa returns to action at 6:30pm tomorrow against the winner of #3 seed Rutgers and #11 seed Purdue. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. Iowa is 1-1 on the year against Purdue—they lost 62-57 in West Lafayette and won 72-58 at Carver. Iowa met Rutgers only once, beating them 72-66 at home. As Ross mentioned in his Big Ten Tournament preview, both teams had a slow finish to the Big Ten season, after looking like conference title contenders at the midway point.
Who you root for in the Purdue-Rutgers game will depend on what you want. If you prefer Iowa have the easiest road possible, Purdue isn’t quite as good as Rutgers overall. Alternatively, if you’re more focused on Iowa’s resume, Rutgers would be a bigger boost should Iowa win, and would be less of a blemish if Iowa loses. Either way, Iowa will face a team they’ve already beaten this year for a shot to go to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.