A week ago, Iowa trailed by 14 in the first half against then #12 Indiana. They ultimately won that game 91-85 in double overtime.
Thursday, Iowa trailed Minnesota by 15 in the second half. They won that one 76-75 thanks to a late Alexis Sevillian three-pointer.
Today, Iowa trailed Wisconsin early in the second half. Care to guess the result?
For a third consecutive game, Iowa overcame a double-digit deficit to steal a game it looked out of for the entire first half.
Today’s comeback started much earlier than Thursday’s effort against the Gophers. After a quick Wisconsin basket to start the second half, Iowa went on a 13-2 run in the course of a couple minutes to cut the Badger lead to six points. Wisconsin called timeout, hoping to quell Iowa’s momentum and go back on the offensive.
It didn’t work. Iowa continued to get stops defensively, and their offense continued to convert. A Makenzie Meyer three a few minutes later gave Iowa a 55-54 lead.
To Wisconsin’s credit, the Badgers finally started to regain some momentum thereafter. Iowa and Wisconsin played to a draw the rest of the quarter, and Wisconsin took the lead to start the fourth.
But Wisconsin’s lead didn’t hold, and Iowa was able to build a 4-point lead with four minutes to go. Wisconsin briefly cut that to one, but couldn’t tie or take the lead. Iowa got a couple big stops late in the game, made some free throws, and won 85-78. After being down 15 at the half, Iowa outscored Wisconsin by 22 points in the second half.
Meyer led Iowa with 22 points and 6 assists, including 4-6 shooting from three and 6-6 shooting from the line. Kathleen Doyle added 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. A couple weeks ago I said she might be able to play her way into Big Ten Player of the Year discussion if she took her game to the next level. She’s done better than that. She’s won conference player of the week each of the last two weeks, and she has an argument for it again this week, too. She’s played like an All-American for Iowa in Big Ten play.
Monika Czinano was the final Hawkeye in double figures with 20 points on 8-9 shooting. She barely played in the first half due to foul trouble, but was huge in the second half. Her offensive numbers are apparent, but she also raised her game defensively, including a key block late in the game. Here’s how she did in the fourth quarter:
Without Czinano, Iowa wouldn’t have finished their comeback with a win. A box score for the game is here.
The last week has shown something that has been apparent for most of the season: this Iowa team takes its game to the next level in clutch situations or when its back is against the wall. The defense locks down, limiting penetration and challenging shooters. The offense moves more crisply, getting looks at the basket or open threes with few if any turnovers. Iowa’s ability to turn things on in an instant means that they're never truly out of a basketball game.
At the same time, we shouldn’t minimize what was a brutal first half. The culprit for a second consecutive game was Iowa’s defense. Their rotations in their 2-3 zone weren’t good to start the game, so Bluder had them switch to man to man. That went… poorly. Iowa’s guards were getting beat off the dribble consistently, and their forwards were being out-positioned in the post. And those defensive issues also impacted the offense. Iowa wasn’t terrible offensively in the first half. They just had to constantly attack a set defense. In the second half, when Iowa was able to get in transition more often due to Wisconsin misses, they scored 50 points.
Iowa returns to action on Thursday, January 23 at 7 PM CT at home against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 11-7 on the year, and 4-3 in the Big Ten. They have been up and down this season, winning at home against #5 Louisville as a high, and losing by six at home to Ohio as a low. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.