A win is a win, even if you only win winning time.
Tonight, Iowa got outplayed by Minnesota for 35 and a half minutes. The Hawks were down as many as 15 on multiple occasions, and trailed by 13 early in the 4th quarter. At the under-5 timeout, they still trailed by 9 and looked dead in the water.
Then, from out of nowhere, they caught fire. The defense locked Minnesota down. The offense converted bucket after bucket. Suddenly the lead was down to six. Then four. Then one.
And then, with only seconds remaining, Alexis Sevillian did this:
Well actually, no, it wasn’t game. The universe hadn’t crushed Minnesota’s soul enough.
With less than a second to go, Minnesota threw up a prayer of a jump shot and got bailed out by a foul call. Despite Alexis Sevillian’s heroics and the huge Hawkeye rally, Minnesota would have two free throws to tie the game and force overtime at home.
Gadiva Hubbard stepped to the line for Minnesota a perfect 6-6 on the night. The Gophers as a team were an incredible 13-14 at the line. But despite that, Hubbard missed her first free throw.
While the miss was certainly deflating, all hope was not lost. The Gophers could still rebound and put back a Hubbard intentional miss and tie the game, even with so little time left. Except they never got the chance. Because Hubbard made the second free throw she intended to miss.
Iowa then inbounded the ball without issue and the game was over. Minnesota blew a 9-point lead in four and a half minutes, then blew a golden opportunity to tie things.
This is the most stunning victory I’ve witnessed in my three years of covering Iowa women’s basketball here at GIA. That includes the 24-point comeback against West Virginia last year.
The reason for that is just that there was no real sign this comeback was coming. Minnesota led basically the entire game. Iowa couldn’t string stops together defensively, and the offense couldn’t get out of its own way with turnovers. Then that all flipped. In four and a half glorious minutes.
While the win is nice, and the finish was incredible, the overall performance from Iowa was concerning. Minnesota started the year well, but has been in a tailspin to start conference play. The Gophers came into the game at 1-4 in conference, and were in the midst of a controversy that weakened the team.
Just a couple hours before tip, Minnesota’s star player, Destiny Pitts, announced she was transferring from the program. The controversy surrounding Pitts has been ongoing for a few days now, as she and two other players were suspended for Minnesota’s previous game at Illinois.
But despite those circumstances, Minnesota did a better job attacking Iowa’s defense than most teams had this year. They successfully penetrated Iowa’s 2-3 zone defense, then found wide open three-point shooters when Iowa adjusted to that by collapsing. Iowa countered by going to man-to-man defense, and frankly that looked even worse for large stretches.
The good news for Iowa is that they get to learn from this game without actually suffering defeat. The players and coaches deserve credit for not giving up and turning things around just in time to steal a victory. When competing for a conference championship, the win and loss columns are the only things that matter. One point wins and 50-point wins all get recorded the same and Iowa stays tied for first in the Big Ten with Rutgers and Northwestern (all at 5-1).
Monika Czinano led Iowa with 21 points on 10-11 shooting. Kathleen Doyle added 17 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. She keeps getting close to that elusive triple-double. Sevillian was the final Hawkeye in double figures with 11. None were bigger than her three in the final seconds when Iowa had done nothing all possession. A box score for the game is here.
Iowa returns to action this Sunday, January 19 at 2 PM CT on the road at Wisconsin. The Badgers are only 1-5 in Big Ten play, but you can’t take any road game for granted as this one shows. The game will be streamed on BTN+.