Turnovers mean more than a lost offensive possession. Many times, they also mean your opponent has a great opportunity to score, because your defense doesn’t have time to get set. Tonight, Northwestern scored 28 points off of 18 Iowa turnovers, and that was the difference in a 77-67 road loss for Iowa.
Iowa started off the game with five turnovers in the game’s first few minutes. Northwestern took advantage offensively, and built an early 7-point lead. Iowa took better care of the ball in the second part of the quarter, but it didn’t improve the score, and Northwestern led 23-16 after the first quarter.
The second quarter went much better for Iowa. The offense finally got going and stopped turning the ball over. Iowa switched to a triangle and two defense, and it did a good job of causing problems for Northwestern’s offense. Iowa took a 36-34 late in the half, before a Northwestern layup at the buzzer tied the game at 36.
Iowa started the third quarter slow, and trailed 51-48 with four minutes to play in the third quarter. Then the turnovers struck again. Over the next several minutes, Iowa turned the ball over several times offensively, and Northwestern took full advantage, building a 62-50 lead heading to the 4th quarter.
Iowa battled back in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead down to two possessions multiple times, but it couldn’t draw the game any closer, and Northwestern eventually pulled away late.
Monika Czinano led Iowa with 28 points and 12 rebounds on 13-14 shooting. She had 18 points in the first quarter, then was fairly quiet in the third as Northwestern built up the lead Iowa never managed to overcome. McKenna Warnock had 17 rebounds and 5 assists, but scored just 3 points.
Caitlin Clark had just 8 points and 8 assists on 3-12 shooting. The good news is that she didn’t force things too much offensively, giving the ball to her teammates instead of continuing to shoot when she wasn’t hitting. The bad news is that it was far too easy to take her out of the game, particularly in the second half. A box score for the game is here.
The two teams in this game had vastly different style preferences. Iowa prefers to play quickly and score a lot of points. Northwestern focuses on defense and slowing down the game’s tempo. Tonight, Northwestern’s style won out too often, and that had a big impact on the game. In particular, Northwestern was able to limit Clark and take Warnock’s offense out of the game almost completely.
Iowa really needs to do some soul searching on the defensive end. They started the game in a 2-3 zone, but had to abandon it quickly because Northwestern was getting wide open three-pointers and was hitting most of them.
Iowa hasn’t played much man-to-man defense in Big Ten play because teams were still getting open threes against it in the non-conference and were also in a much better position to drive to the basket.
The triangle and two worked fairly well for a quarter or two, but eventually Northwestern figured out how to attack it, and it didn’t work much better than every other defense Iowa has tried. At this point, it’s the team, not the scheme, at fault for Iowa’s bad defensive play.
Iowa returns to action on Wednesday, January 13 at 3 PM at home against Ohio State. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. The Buckeyes are 6-0 on the season, and 2-0 in the Big Ten. They have played fewer games than Iowa because they were forced to pause for a few weeks earlier this season due to COVID-19 issues.