Winning on the road in the Big Ten is hard. You can do a bunch of things right. Play good defense and have players step up. And sometimes, it’s just not enough.
That was the story for Iowa today. The Hawkeyes did plenty of good things. They had less-heralded players step up and fill in when starters weren’t on the floor. But despite that, they fell 78-69 on the road at Nebraska in their Big Ten opener. The game was close the entire way, but Iowa couldn’t do enough to ever get a lead and momentum in the game’s final 20 minutes.
In the first Big Ten game of her career, McKenna Warnock was Iowa’s leading scorer in the first half. She scored 13 points in the half, including going 3-3 from three. Warnock is an interesting offensive player in that she’s as tall as a post, as fast as a small forward, and can shoot like a guard. Today, her offensive arsenal was on full display, and she helped lead Iowa’s offense when things weren’t clicking in the early going.
Iowa’s zone defense was very good at limiting penetration. Nebraska’s guards rarely got to the basket, and often didn’t even attempt to do so. Unfortunately, that meant Nebraska took plenty of long jumpers in the game, and they made more than its fair share of them. When you play zone, you want opposing teams to take long shots. If they hit enough of them to beat you, you tip your cap and move on.
Monika Czinano’s rebounding was also veyr good. Czinano’s career high in rebounds was 7 coming into the game. Today, she had 17. Some of that was being in the right place at the right time, but not all of it. Czinano made more of an effort to grab boards today, and it made a big difference. Rebounding has been a weakness in her game to this point, and Iowa will need her to keep making it a focus going forward.
Iowa’s offense was out of sorts today. The Hawks shot only 37% from the floor, and 30% from three-point range. The primary culprit for their shooting struggles were turnovers and bad shots. Iowa turned the ball over 18 times today, which you simply can’t do when your half-court defense is strong. Iowa surrendered 24 points off those turnovers, giving Nebraska far too many transition looks around the basket that they just weren't generating in the half-court.
As for shots, Iowa was getting to the basket pretty regularly, but too often they were taking circus layups or trying to shoot over or around multiple players. Getting shots around the basket is generally good because they are high percentage shots. But when you shoot them with a high degree of difficulty, they become no better than jacking long jumpers. Iowa’s guards were especially prone to taking those shots today. Moving forward, they need to pass on them in favor of open threes or working more offense.
Iowa’s passing also wasn’t great today. Usually Iowa teams rack up assists because they make the extra pass that turns a good shot into a great one. Today, Iowa had only 12 assists. The team didn’t work its offense enough to find open players.
Iowa returns to action on Tuesday, December 31 at 2 PM CT at home against Illinois. The game will be streamed on BTN Plus.