Runs often define a basketball game. For a few minutes, one team looks invincible. It can’t miss offensively. Can’t be broken down on defense.
Suddenly a game is close again after one team held a big lead. Or what was a close game turns into a blowout.
And sometimes, it’s all of the above.
Tonight, Iowa’s non-conference finale against in state rival Drake was a game of runs.
Iowa got the first of those to start the second quarter. Up until that point, the Hawkeyes had looked sluggish. Their three-pointers weren’t falling. They were turning it over when trying to enter into the post. And their defenders weren’t quite getting all the way out to their assignments. Drake held a 17-14 first quarter lead, and looked the better team early.
Then Iowa flipped the script. Monika Czinano worked even harder to get open in the low post, and every Iowa guard was finding her. After made baskets, Iowa’s defense got set and started to lock in. Within three minutes of the start of the second quarter, Iowa had built a 24-19 run and had all the momentum. Iowa’s strong defense extended for the rest of the quarter, and another offensive flurry to close out helped them amass a 37-25 halftime lead.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and so too did Iowa’s second quarter. Even worse, it was Drake’s turn to run. And run they did. Drake’s offense was nearly unstoppable in the third quarter. The Bulldogs were getting open looks and burying them no matter where the shots were taken. Part of Drake’s success was Iowa’s doing. The Hawks turned it over too much in the third, and that helped Drake get open shots. More of it, though, was Drake just executing their offense well. The run helped Drake cut Iowa’s lead to 1 for a brief moment, before the Hawks closed the quarter leading 56-53.
Much of the fourth quarter went back and forth, with neither team going on an extended run. Iowa held a slight advantage, though, and led by six with just under four minutes to play. It was apparent that another run was coming. One that would decisively conclude the game one way or another.
Fortunately, it was Iowa that got that run. Kathleen Doyle hit a couple big baskets in a row, which moved Iowa’s lead to double digits. Drake didn’t have time left to rally, and Iowa held on for a 79-67 victory.
Makenzie Meyer led Iowa with 24 points, including 4-8 shooting from three. Meyer has taken a step in her senior season, turning from a sharpshooter into an all-around scorer. Doyle had 19 points and 10 assists in 38 minutes of action. Czinano added 17 points on 8-10 shooting, though she had only one rebound and fouled out of another game. Alexis Sevillian was the final Hawkeye in double figures with 11. A box score is here.
The past few months have gone really well for Iowa. Better than we could’ve expected, frankly. Megan Gustafson, Tania Davis, and Hannah Stewart were all big parts of Iowa’s Elite Eight run, and they were largely replaced this year with inexperienced freshmen and sophomores. Many questioned whether Iowa would even be a tournament team this year. Charlie Crème didn’t have Iowa in his initial bracket projection to begin the season.
But after 11 games, Iowa sits at 9-2, and have won most the games they should have and a few they probably shouldn’t have. The Hawks are now projected as a 9 seed in Crème’s bracket, and the team’s metrics should only improve when conference play presents more opportunities for big wins. On the court, the freshmen look better than anticipated, the seniors have stepped up, and Czinano has a field goal percentage that darn near matches Gustafson’s.
This team likely won’t make an Elite Eight run, but the question now looks more like what seed will it get in the tournament instead of whether it will get in at all.
And Iowa has also had a lot of success of the court. Just over a month ago, Top 5 in her class Caitlin Clark picked Iowa over Notre Dame and Iowa State. Before her, Iowa also landed a Top 60 recruit from the 2021 class in AJ Ediger. And recently Greta Kampshroder, a Top 20 recruit from the class of 2021, named Iowa as one of her Top 3 schools.
Coach Bluder and her staff deserve significant credit for Iowa’s last few months. After the Elite Eight run, it would’ve been easy for them to celebrate that success and take things easy. Instead, they landed one of the best recruits in program history, and look well on their way to getting good talent to support her. They also have this year’s team looking far better than we had any right to expect.
Hopefully this season continues on the high note it started on, and Iowa’s successes on and off the court can lift the program to the next level.
Iowa kicks off its Big Ten season next Saturday, December 28 at 1 PM CT on the road against Nebraska. The Huskers are 9-1 on the season, through their RPI is only #103 thanks to playing the 278th hardest schedule. Iowa, by comparison, is ranked 20th in the RPI, and has played the 35th hardest schedule in the country. The game will be streamed on BTN Plus.