Iowa’s Senior Night matchup against Minnesota was all over the place. For a few minutes, Iowa would look unstoppable, streaking together stops on defense and converting baskets on the other end. Then they would look entirely beatable, surrendering unchallenged three-pointers and compounding the problems with silly turnovers.
Even the referees got in on the fun. For a few minutes, they would fade into the background. Then they would make three or four head-scratching calls in a two-minute span, drawing the ire of both coaches and the Carver crowd.
Early on, things looked to be going Iowa’s way. The Hawks used a run late in the quarter to build a 10-point 1st quarter lead. Minnesota nearly erased that all to start the 2nd quarter, before Iowa went on another run to extend the lead back to 12.
As before, Minnesota then went on a run of its own, and Iowa closed the half with a slim 46-43 lead. The Gophers’ momentum continued in the early 3rd quarter, as they briefly took a one-point lead before Iowa answered. The Hawks owned the rest of the quarter from there, though, and took an 11-point lead to the 4th quarter.
Again Minnesota battled back, however, and cut the Iowa lead down to just three with only a few minutes remaining in the game. It was Iowa that won the game’s final few minutes, however, as baskets from Monika Czinano and Alexis Sevillian helped give Iowa more breathing room and a lead it would never relinquish. The Hawks ultimately won 90-82.
In her final regular season game at Carver, Makenzie Meyer led Iowa with 24 points on 6-9 shooting from three. She also had six assists and four rebounds in the game. Czinano also had 24 points, and she added six rebounds as well. Kathleen Doyle had 16 points in the game, but struggled to finish at the basket on a night when Iowa shot nearly 60% from the floor. Sevillian and McKenna Warnock were the final Hawkeyes in double figures with 11 apiece. A box score for the game is here.
Meyer has been a starter at Iowa for nearly her entire career. She began as mostly a shooting specialist, but has expanded her game over the course of her career. That is especially evident this season, as she has become an all-around scorer that can shoot, take defenders off the dribble, or beat defenses on back-cuts they don’t see coming. She has also improved as a defender, and in contributing to the team’s efforts on the glass.
"What I'll miss most is just being around my teammates. I've built such great friendships over the past four years... we're always together and I'll miss sharing time with those people."— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) February 27, 2020
-Senior Makenzie Meyer | #Hawkeyes #FightForIowa pic.twitter.com/VXS5qxTqlS
No senior has transformed more in her time as a Hawkeye than Amanda Ollinger. Ollinger came to Iowa as a wing with a reputation as a shooter. She didn’t play much in her first season, though, and struggled to shoot from long range for her entire career.
Instead of accepting her role on the bench, though, she worked to improve her game in other areas, taking advantage of her height and athleticism to grow as a defender and rebounder. This season, with Iowa thin at forward, Ollinger transitioned from the wing to the post, becoming a full-time starter and Iowa’s best rebounder and post defender.
And Ollinger’s success on the floor might actually be exceeded by her success off it. Before the season had even begun, Ollinger already had a job lined up with Collins Aerospace as a systems engineer. She also purchased her first home.
It’s safe to say Ollinger is winning on the court and off it.
"We all buy into the same mission and the same goal, and we come out here and play basketball together. I think that's so special... That's what I'm going to miss the most." -Senior Amanda Ollinger pic.twitter.com/5N1xaxfmUG— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) February 26, 2020
Paula Valino Ramos
Speaking of winning off the court: Paula Valino Ramos is about to graduate in three years with a degree in biochemistry and neuroscience, and she’ll do so while getting an A in every one of her classes. Even more impressive, English is Ramos’ second language, yet she’s taken all of her tests and read all her books in English.
Pau, we you & we're so thankful that you chose to be a Hawk!Thx for all you have done on & off the court! I still can't believe you have gotten straight As...listening to every lecture, writing every paper, taking every test and reading every book, in your second language! https://t.co/1pQ2UcyllE— Jan Jensen (@goiowa) February 27, 2020
While Ramos is graduating this year, for eligibility purposes she is just a junior and would have one more season of eligibility remaining. That she was honored on Senior Night is a strong indication that this is likely to be Ramos’ last year with the team, however. If so, she got to be part of some of the best teams in program history all while killing it in the classroom.
For three and a half seasons, Doyle was one of the top players in the Big Ten. At times, she was a force offensively, beating defenders to the basket, drawing tons of fouls, and hitting clutch shots in key situations. Defensively, she was a constant problem, racking up steals or just being a thorn in the side of whomever she defended. And through it all, she was a leader, having been selected as a team captain since her Sophomore season.
But since Big Ten play began this year, she’s been one of the best players in the country. She’s upped her scoring by relentlessly attacking the basket and shooting better than she has at any time in her career. She’s also kept up her defensive intensity and improved her rebounding efforts. Several times this year, she’s flirted with a triple-double, with many of those efforts coming in Iowa’s biggest games.
Because of Doyle’s play and leadership, an Iowa team predicted to finish middle of the Big Ten is 14-3 in conference and a win or two away from securing home court advantage in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
When we look back on this stretch of Iowa basketball history a decade or two from now, our first thought will probably be of Megan Gustafson. Or it might be of the Caitlin Clark years yet to come. But we should never forget how Doyle came to Iowa as a highly rated recruit and left as one of the most well-rounded players in program history. I don’t know if she’ll win Big Ten Player of the Year this year, but she darn well deserves to.
"To Hawkeye Nation... I come from a big family and I wanted to go somewhere that had a family environment. I got a whole family of #Hawkeyes and that has been better than my best expectations."— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) February 27, 2020
-Senior @KDoyle_11 pic.twitter.com/4UmTac59NX
Around the Big Ten
t-1) 15-2 #7 Maryland
t-1) 15-2 #14 Northwestern
3) 14-3 #18 Iowa
Iowa holds the tie-breaker over both Maryland and Northwestern, but with one game remaining in conference play, theywould need a loss by either (or both) and a victory in their final game to avoid finishing third in the conference.
Maryland finished the season on the road at Minnesota. While this Gopher team is better than its 5-12 conference record, a victory over the Terps would be one of the bigger upsets of the season.
Northwestern finishes up the year at home against 2-15 Illinois. An Illini victory in that one might actually be the biggest upset of the year.
Iowa’s final game of the regular season tips at 11 AM CT on Sunday, February 29 on the road at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are 10-7 in the Big Ten this season, with only two of those losses at home. If the Hawks beat Rutgers, they will have defeated every team in the conference at least once this season. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.