We made it. Despite all the difficulties that COVID-19 has presented this season, Iowa has made it to the final week of its regular season. Next week, Iowa will play in the Big Ten Tournament. The NCAA Tournament begins March 21.
This final week, then, was mostly about seeding and ending the year strong. Wins on the road at #10 Indiana and at home against Nebraska would likely improve Iowa’s seeding in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. They would certainly give the Hawks confidence that they could beat almost any opponent if they play their best game.
Iowa started its game at Indiana relatively slowly on both ends. Offensively, the Hawkeyes mostly got good shots, but they struggled to make them, shooting just 40% in the first quarter. Defensively, Iowa allowed too much penetration, and Indiana scored most of its points in the paint. But despite that, Iowa trailed just 17-15 after the first quarter.
The second quarter was back-and-forth. Offensively, Iowa finally started getting its shots to drop, and largely kept Indiana out of the paint to start the quarter. That combination briefly helped Iowa build a 7-point lead.
But then Indiana went on a run of their own, thanks largely to dribble penetration from its guards. The Hoosiers took the lead back with just over a minute to play in the quarter.
And then momentum swung again in the half’s final minute. Caitlin Clark drew and converted an and-1 on one possession, then hit a buzzer-beating three to end the half. All told, Iowa held a 43-38 lead at halftime on the road against a Top 10 opponent.
Unfortunately, Iowa’s strong second quarter play didn’t last. In the third quarter, Iowa’s offense looked much like it did in the first quarter—the players got decent looks, but missed them far more than they usually would. Defensively, the story was largely the same—Indiana attacked Iowa off the dribble and beat the Iowa defenders more often than not. All told, the Hoosiers turned a five-point deficit into a 65-59 lead at quarter’s end.
Indiana started the fourth quarter strong as well, and pushed their lead to 10. Clark did her best to help Iowa battle back, but fouled out with Iowa down four with just under three minutes to play. Four points was as close as the game would get, and Indiana won 89-80.
Clark led Iowa with 32 points and 5 assists. She easily would’ve had more if she hadn’t fouled out. Monika Czinano had 20 points, but shot just 8-21 from the field, which is far below her season average. No other Iowa player had more than 7 points, though Clark and Czinano combined to shoot 39 of the team’s 60 shots. A box score for the game is here.
Clark: 33 min—6 pts
Marshall: 32 min—11 pts
Martin: 34 min—17 pts
Warnock: 33 min—5 pts
Czinano: 28 min—18 pts
Meyer: 12 min—4 pts
Taiwo: 15 min—12 pts
Goodman: 12 min— 6 pts
Team: 10 pts
The points against numbers largely pass the eye test today. Indiana focused on beating Iowa’s perimeter players off the dribble, and Martin, Taiwo, and Marshall were the ones they attacked most.
Warnock had the best numbers of a perimeter defender because she did the best job at stopping dribble penetration, though with a caveat that she largely forced her player baseline and then used the baseline to assist her in stopping them. The other three were guarding the wing more and didn’t have the baseline’s help. Clark’s numbers were also lower, but mostly because her player didn’t attack her as much as Iowa’s other defenders.
Czinano’s number also stands out. More on that below.
Why Wasn’t Czinano In?
In the game’s final few minutes, the BTN announcing crew asked why Sharon Goodman was in the game instead of Czinano, Iowa’s second leading scorer. The crew discussed it for a minute or so and couldn’t come up with a good answer.
The actual answer has two parts. First, as the points against showed today, Goodman was the better defensive option to try getting stops late. I wouldn’t call Goodman a good defender yet, but she’s more mobile than Czinano defensively, and also better at contesting shots. With the way Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes dominated Czinano, any boost in the paint defensively gave Iowa a better chance at a comeback.
The second part is that Coach Bluder didn’t take Czinano out completely. She attempted to put Czinano back in on offensive possessions, then sub Goodman in on defense. During the sequence the announcers commentated on, there wasn’t a dead ball, so Czinano didn’t get back in on offense.
On Iowa message boards and the comment sections of these articles I’ve seen many fans new to women’s basketball comment about how bad the officiating is compared to the men’s game. There is a lot of truth to those comments. The officiating in women’s games is very inconsistent, and I could probably write about it on most nights. I largely resist doing so unless it has a material impact on the game.
Tonight, the officiating hurt Iowa. The most egregious example was late in the third quarter just as Indiana was in the midst of a run and took the lead back from Iowa. The Indiana defender guarding Clark poked the ball away, and in the scramble for the ball, Clark made light contact to the defender’s neck. Instead of absorbing the light contact and continuing on, the Indiana defender flopped backwards like she’d been punched by Joe Frazier. The act worked, though, and the referee called an offensive foul on Clark.
While one lost possession didn’t make the difference in today’s game, it was the third foul on Clark. Clark’s fourth foul was also questionable, and she picked up her fifth soon after, just as she was leading an Iowa comeback. There were other questionable calls throughout the game, and several came at the perfect time to help Indiana keeps its lead.
Iowa closes out the regular season on Friday, March 5 at 7 PM CT at home against Nebraska. The Huskers are 11-10 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten. Iowa defeated Nebraska 88-81 on February 11th in Lincoln. The game will be streamed on BTN Plus.