For two and a half quarters, Iowa played about as well as they could on the road against Iowa State. The Hawkeyes executed well offensively, limited turnovers, and played the best defense they had all season.
Then, things went south. Iowa State finally found success offensively, and Iowa began to rush its own offense. A missed bunny and a couple turnovers later, and Iowa’s once 9-point lead was on life support. By the end of third quarter, it didn’t exist at all. Iowa entered the fourth quarter tied at 48 on the road with all the momentum against them.
But when your back is against the wall, senior leaders can pull you through. Especially senior leaders who have never lost to the Cyclones.
The senior takeover started immediately in the fourth quarter, when guards Kathleen Doyle and Makenzie Meyer slowed things down and worked the half court offense. Because of that, they were able to find fellow senior Amanda Ollinger open in the high post.
From there, Ollinger had the perfect angle to dump down to Monika Czinano in the low post. Czinano did the rest, and on Iowa’s first two possessions, she scored crucial baskets to restore a four-point lead for Iowa. Another stop and a Tomi Taiwo three-pointer pushed the lead to seven. The Hawkeyes had their mojo back.
As in the third quarter, Iowa State fought back. The Cyclones hit a three of their own, then got another basket to counter a Czinano bucket. With Iowa’s lead at four, Meyer took over. In the next couple minutes, she scored in the lane, buried a three, and got another layup on a drive to the basket. Meyer’s baskets and some strong defense helped Iowa extend its lead to 9 with 4:29 to play.
And that’s when Doyle stepped in. Or, rather, that’s when Doyle stepped to the line. In the final four and a half minutes, Doyle went 8-10 from the free throw line to help secure Iowa’s victory. Iowa State continued to battle, but never could cut the Iowa lead to one possession. The Hawks ultimately won 75-69.
Doyle led Iowa with 21 points, including 10-12 shooting from the free throw line. Even better, she had only a single turnover in the game. Czinano had 20 points and was dominant in the low block. Meyer was the last Hawkeye in double figures with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Ollinger only had two points, but she had a huge game on the glass with a career-high 20 rebounds. A box score for the game is here.
Iowa played man-to-man defense the entire game, and the Hawks played it well. Virtually every Iowa State shot was challenged, whether close to the basket or at the three-point line. Iowa also made it hard for the Cyclones to get all the way to the basket. They would allow some penetration, before cutting it off. Iowa State shot only 32% from the field, and were an even worse 20% from three.
Doyle, Meyer, Ollinger, and Czinano will get the headlines, but Taiwo and McKenna Warnock were both really good, too. Warnock scored her five points early in the game when Iowa was struggling offensively, and played good defense the entire night.
So too did Taiwo, who easily had the best game of her career. She was a perfect 3-3 from three on the night, and a couple of those were big baskets that shifted momentum. The performance was especially important considering Taiwo hasn’t played much lately. The sophomore is very athletic and can be a plus defender, but sometimes struggles with positioning and rotations. Zone defenses aren’t her strength for now, but when Iowa plays man-to-man, she can shine.
Iowa’s only real fault in this game was offensive rebounds. Iowa State grabbed 22 offensive rebounds in this one, and at times they were the only thing keeping them in the game. Part of that was luck. Iowa State was missing a ton of shots, and some of those will naturally bounce to the offensive team.
But the other rebounds are a cause for concern going forward. As good as Czinano is offensively, she’s not a good rebounder at this stage in her career. Iowa’s guards are generally decent rebounders, but they’re going to struggle against bigger lineups like Iowa State had tonight. In the end, rebounding is a team effort, and Iowa will need to work on it going forward.
But enough with any negatives. Iowa just went on the road and beat their biggest rival and a likely NCAA Tournament team. And they looked very good in doing so. That’s something to celebrate.
Iowa returns to action on Saturday, December 14 at 2 PM CT at home against North Carolina Central. The game will be streamed on BTN Plus.