Thanksgiving tournaments can be a gift and a curse. On the one hand, they’re a great way to work on issues that a team has had in the early season. They’re a great bonding experience for the players, and can help cement the team’s rotation moving forward.
On the other hand, team’s don’t have any time to address issues that arise during the tournament. And a couple day cold streak can really dent a team’s NCAA Tournament resume come March.
For Iowa, the Puerto Rico Clasico was a mixed bag, which is to be expected with a still young team. Here’s how things went:
Iowa 69, Cincinnati 61
This game was really close for three quarters. Iowa did a nice job defensively, but also struggled to generate offense. The Hawks were forced into taking more threes than usual because of Cincinnati’s zone defense, yet they missed their first 11. Late in the third quarter, those threes finally started to fall.
In the fourth quarter, Iowa’s hot shooting continued. The Hawks also played good defense, and that plus their shooting helped them build a double-digit lead. Cincinnati made a late run and pulled within three, but two late three-pointers from Gabbie Marshall and Makenzie Meyer iced the game away.
Monika Czinano led Iowa with 16 points, but she again fouled out of the game and played no role in Iowa’s final few minutes. Kathleen Doyle added 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in another strong effort. Amanda Ollinger was the final Hawkeye in double-figures with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. A box score is available here.
Iowa 100, Towson 72
Offense wasn’t a problem in Iowa’s second game of the Clasico. The Hawks scored early and often on their way to a fairly easy victory over Towson. The Hawkeye lead was 7 after the first quarter, and 12 at halftime. They extended that lead a little in the third quarter, too, before pouring things on in the fourth.
Meyer led Iowa with 29 points on 11-15 shooting overall and 5-7 from three. It was her best game scoring in an Iowa uniform. Czinano added 12 points and 7 rebounds. Marshall and McKenna Warnock were the final Hawkeyes in double-figures with 11 each. 10 Hawkeyes scored in the game. A box score is available here.
Washington 70, Iowa 63
Sloppiness was the story in this one for Iowa. Early, that came on the defensive end. In the game’s first few minutes, Iowa surrendered several easy back cut layups at the rim out of its man-to-man defense. The baskets helped propel Washington to a 13-0 run, which saw an Iowa lead turn into a double-digit deficit.
Later on, the sloppiness came in the form of turnovers. Iowa was far too careless with the ball, racking up 19 turnovers in the game. The turnovers helped a struggling Washington offense get better looks on fast breaks, and also made it difficult for Iowa’s offense to find any sort of rhythm. The Hawks were never out of the game, but every time they pulled close, they either started turning it over or went cold from the floor.
Doyle led Iowa with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, though she also had 7 turnovers. Czinano added 15 points and 7 rebounds in 35 minutes. Meyer was the final Hawkeye in double figures with 10, though she shot only 2-9 from three. A box score is available here.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Clasico is Iowa abandoning its four-guard lineup. Iowa featured the four-guard lineup fairly significantly in its first few games of the season, but barely utilized it in Puerto Rico. The reasoning for that change is obvious—Iowa struggled both offensively and defensively with the four-guard lineup on the floor.
Offensively, Iowa relied too much on three-point shooting in the lineup. It also made doubling the post player easier for opposing defenses, because Iowa isn’t a huge threat to drive to the basket, and there isn’t a second post threat on the floor. Defensively, the fourth guard struggled to match an opponent’s second post, and created size and rebounding issues out of either a man or zone defense.
The primary beneficiary of the shift away from the four-guard lineup was McKenna Warnock. Warnock has had a good start to the season, and saw her minutes nearly double on average in Puerto Rico.
Warnock’s added minutes came at the expense of Kate Martin. Martin has had a relatively slow start to the season, but was usually the fourth guard in Iowa’s four-guard lineup. In Puerto Rico, however, she primarily came in as a reserve guard, and was the team’s fifth guard into the game. She averaged less than 10 minutes per game in Iowa’s competitive Clasico games.
Another takeaway was Iowa’s switch to a 2-3 zone defensively. Coach Bluder often plays a variety of defenses in any given season, based on matchups and how the team is playing. In the two competitive Puerto Rico games, however, Iowa was in a 2-3 zone for most of both games.
Overall, the zone defense looked good. It limited chances for opposing teams to drive, and led to a bunch of long, bad shots from Cincinnati and Washington. Washington ended up making a fair number of those shots, but early in that game Washington was getting easy layups against Iowa’s man defense. The zone slowed down Washington’s inside scoring for the rest of the game. The Huskies just got lucky that enough of their long shots dropped.
I’d like to see Iowa utilize the 2-3 zone more going forward. It’s not without its problems—such as giving up offensive rebounds and open threes—but overall it makes it harder to score on Iowa defensively. And as Iowa works on the zone more in games and in practice, it should be able to sure up some of the problem areas for that defense.
Iowa returns to action on Wednesday, December 4 at 8 PM CT at home against Clemson. The game will be televised on BTN. Thank goodness we don’t have to watch FloHoops again for the rest of the season.