Iowa traveled to Northern Iowa for its first road game of the 2019-2020 season, and… it didn’t go well. Not even a little.
The Panthers looked like the better team from the very beginning, and jumped out to a 21-12 lead. In the second quarter, Iowa cut that lead down to 8, and it could’ve been less but for a blown offensive foul call that earned Kathleen Doyle her third first half foul. Instead, Northern Iowa regained its momentum and took a 45-31 lead into halftime.
Any hope for a huge rally ended early in the 3rd quarter, when the Panthers started well and quickly built the lead to 20. The Hawkeyes did cut that back down to 13 for a time, but the Panthers were never truly threatened. They held on to win 88-66.
Makenzie Meyer led Iowa with 14 points, though she shot only 4-16 from the floor. Amanda Ollinger had 8 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out part way through the fourth quarter. No other Iowa player scored in double figures. A box score for the game is here.
It was obvious early in this game that Northern Iowa was the better team. The Panthers ran better offense, made more three-pointers, and were far superior on the glass. Worse yet, they managed to get Iowa into foul trouble early in the game, which left some of Iowa’s best players on the bench as UNI built its lead.
Caitlin Clark’s recent commitment to Iowa changes the calculus for this year’s season, in my view. Iowa isn’t a team that competes for Big Ten championships on a yearly basis. For Iowa to compete at the top of the Big Ten, it needs a team full of good veteran players or a transcendent talent that can lead a team.
Last year’s team actually had both. Megan Gustafson was the transcendent talent, but Iowa also saw contributions from a good group of juniors and seniors. And that team took Iowa further than it had gone in more than a decade.
Clark is another transcendent talent. She’s one of, if not the best recruits Iowa has ever landed. From the moment she steps on campus, she will elevate Iowa’s offense to another level.
But if Iowa wants to truly take advantage of what Clark can offer, it needs to surround her with the best teammates it can. And that means giving some of those teammates (especially this year’s freshman class) more playing time this year so that they’re more experienced heading into next year.
Unfortunately, Coach Bluder didn’t maximize young player minutes today. This game was over part way into the 3rd quarter. Despite that, McKenna Warnock played only a couple minutes before the 8-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Gabbie Marshall played a lot less than she did against North Alabama. Tomi Taiwo barely saw the floor at all.
In blowouts like today, Iowa’s freshman and sophomores need to be playing major minutes once the game is out of reach. It’s a great way to give them experience without actually jeopardizing a game's result.
Marshall, Warnock, and Taiwo should also see an expanded role while future games are still in question. Though their lack of experience might hurt Iowa slightly this season, the experience it gets them will pay dividends in future years when Iowa is competing for Big Ten titles again. In the future, I hope Coach Bluder is quicker to play the young players.
Kate Martin played 23 minutes and scored 8 points, while adding 4 rebounds and 2 assists. When she plays the 4 position for Iowa, she creates matchup problems for opposing teams with multiple forwards. Today, that translated to her drawing a number of fouls on drives to the basket. I’d like to see her take that a step further and be more of a threat to shoot from three.
Gabbie Marshall played 15 minutes and scored 3 points. Alexis Sevillian’s return cut into her minutes fairly significantly, and it showed. She never really found a rhythm.
McKenna Warnock scored 5 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in only 8 minutes of play. Her lack of playing time is perhaps most frustrating of all. Her height and athleticism already make her a solid rebounder. She’s also got tons of potential as a scorer. Though her defense isn’t what it needs to be at the moment, some of those issues, like positioning, often get fixed with more experience playing the defenses on the floor.
Megan Meyer played the game’s final minute and recorded one assist.
Iowa returns to action Wednesday, November 20 at 6:30 PM CT at home against Princeton. The game will be streamed on BTN Plus.