Two days ago, Iowa had one of its worst defensive performance in program history in a 111-93 loss to Maryland. Today, it didn’t look like things would get any easier. The Hawks were scheduled to play #12 Michigan in another ranked late afternoon game.
Things got even more difficult before the game tipped off. As Iowa was warming up, one or both teams had issues with COVID protocols, and the game’s start was delayed for five hours. After the game, more information emerged about the delayed start:
Postgame, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder confirms Logan Cook tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday. All other players tested negative yesterday and today, but Michigan wanted Iowa to take PCR tests before the game, which caused the delay tonight.— chloe peterson (@chloepeterson67) February 26, 2021
Hopefully the rest of Iowa's players continue to test negative.
When the game finally did get started, both teams struggled early, going scoreless in the first few minutes. But then Iowa’s offense got going. Caitlin Clark continued where she left off Tuesday and hit a couple open threes. Iowa’s posts also got open around the basket, and Iowa found them for easy layups.
More surprising was Iowa’s defense. Michigan has one of the best post players in the country in Naz Hillmon, and she had a typically strong start to the game. But Iowa’s man-to-man defense did a great job of shutting down every other player for Michigan. Literally every other player. At the end of the first quarter Iowa led 25-10. Hillmon had 8 of Michigan’s 10 points.
Iowa kept rolling early in the second quarter, and quickly built a 23-point lead at 37-14. But then the Iowa offense went cold, and Michigan went on a run. At the under-5 timeout, Iowa’s lead was down to 16, and Michigan cut it to 12 soon after.
But Iowa rebounded with a couple three-pointers, including a buzzer-beater from Kate Martin, and took a 49-30 lead into halftime.
Iowa’s momentum carried over to the third quarter. The Hawks kept making shots, especially from three, and continued to guard Michigan tight. By the end of the quarter, Iowa led 77-47, and the only thing in question was the final margin. Iowa ultimately won 89-67.
Clark led Iowa with 27 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds. She shot 7/12 from three. Kate Martin had another good game, scoring 15 points and adding 8 assists. Monika Czinano also added 15 on 7/8 shooting. Freshman Sharon Goodman was the last Hawkeye in double-figures with 10. Iowa shot 59% from three as a team. A box score for the game is here.
Clark: 36 min—9 pts
Marshall: 29 min—2 pts
Martin: 36 min—9 pts
Warnock: 27 min—5 pts
Czinano: 23 min—18 pts
Meyer: 11 min—3 pts
Taiwo: 15 min—5 pts
Goodman: 16 min— 13 pts
Jensen: 4min—0 pts
Team: 3 pts
Unsurprisingly, Czinano and Goodman gave up a disproportionate share of the points tonight. Hillmon is the toughest assignment they will have all season, and Michigan’s plan A, B, and C on offense tonight was to dump the ball in the post and hope for a basket or a foul. If the players you are guarding take that many shots in a game, you’re going to give up points even if your defense is solid.
Overall, I think both Czinano and Goodman did well on the defensive end. Iowa largely let them guard Hillmon and the other posts 1-on-1, and they held their own. They were also whistled for a few fouls that seemed light at best. Before the game, I worried that Michigan would dominate Iowa in the post and that just didn’t happen.
Iowa has been looking for a marquee victory for the entire season, and they finally got that tonight. Michigan had justtwo2 losses before tonight’s game, and both were to ranked opponents. The win should make Iowa pretty close to a lock for the NCAA Tournament and could help boost Iowa’s tournament seeding.
I haven’t discussed Iowa’s three-point shooting all that much this season, but this might be the best three-point shooting team that Iowa has ever had. Marshall, Martin, and Taiwo are all above average three-point shooters. Warnock is one of the best three-point shooters in the conference. And Clark shoots a high percentage despite routinely taking a ton of step-back or very deep threes that most other players would rarely if ever make.
The Iowa players and coaches deserve a lot of credit for tonight’s defensive performance. I already mentioned Czinano and Goodman’s efforts, but everyone else basically shut down Michigan’s offense for all four quarters. They also did fairly well at limiting Michigan’s offensive rebounds. This was a night-and-day difference from the performance at Maryland, and it came just two days after a tough game and with a 5-hour delay to the game’s start.
Iowa returns to action on Sunday, February 28th at 2 PM CT on the road at Wisconsin. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1. Wisconsin is 5-16 on the season and 2-16 in the Big Ten.