In ESPN’s latest Bracketology, Iowa is projected as a 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Unless ESPN is way off the mark, Iowa should easily make the NCAA Tournament. The only question now is where the Hawks will be seeded.
A 7 or 8 seed would make Iowa a slight favorite in its first game, then presumably a big underdog in its second game against a 1 or 2 seed. A 5 or 6 seed instead would make Iowa a favorite in its first game and would give it a much better chance of winning the second-round game and advancing to the Sweet 16.
To get a 5 or 6 seed, Iowa would likely need to win one or even several games against the Big Ten’s best teams to help boost its resume.
Tonight’s game against #11 seed Purdue wasn’t one of those resume-boosting games. The Boilermakers were 7-15 coming into the game, and could only hope to make the NCAA Tournament by winning the Big Ten Tournament. But today’s game was a beginning. The only way the Hawks could get to face the better teams in the conference was to beat the Boilermakers in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa started the game slow on both ends. Offensively, everyone aside from Monika Czinano was missing most of their shots. Defensively, they gave up too many open jumpers, and Purdue hit enough of them to take an early lead. Later in the quarter, though, Iowa finally started stringing stops together, and the offense started to convert. A Caitlin Clark three to end the quarter gave Iowa a 17-15 first quarter lead.
Iowa’s momentum carried over to the second quarter, and a combination of Clark attacking and dishing to Czinano for open shots helped Iowa build a 9-point lead. But just as Iowa looked to be running away with the game, Purdue rallied back, tying the game at 34 with a minute and a half to play, then taking the lead 30 seconds later. Iowa got three Clark free throws in the half’s final minute to take a narrow 37-36 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was back and forth. When one team made a basket, the other usually followed with a make of its own. When one team got a stop, the other usually got one too. By quarter’s end Iowa’s lead was up to four at 56-52, but it was still either team’s game.
Purdue got the better of the play for the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, briefly taking a 1-point lead several times. But then Iowa finally went on another run. Czinano stayed hot inside, and Clark started attacking more. In just under two minutes, Iowa went from down one to up eight thanks to a 9-0 run. The Hawks kept that momentum up the rest of the quarter, and ultimately held on for an 83-72 victory.
Czinano led Iowa with 38 points on 16/18 shooting, along with 9 rebounds. It was easily the best game of her career so far. More on that below. Clark struggled from the field—she shot just 8/21—but she still scored 27 points, dished 9 assists, and grabbed 7 rebounds. No other Hawkeye scored in double figures, though Kate Martin did add 7 rebounds and 7 assists. A box score for the game is here.
Clark: 36 min—15 pts
Marshall: 37 min—22 pts
Martin: 33 min—4 pts
Warnock: 30 min—13 pts
Czinano: 32 min—11 pts
Meyer: 7 min—0 pts
Taiwo: 18 min—4 pts
Goodman: 8 min— 0 pts
Team: 3 pts
I also thought this was Monika Czinano’s best game of the season defensively. She had two blocks and two steals and was fairly disruptive in the post throughout the game. Her points against are also a little deceptive, as two came when the Purdue offensive player got away with a clear hook, and two more came when Czinano got elbowed in the face, but the referees didn’t call anything. This kind of defensive effort from Czinano would be big for Iowa, both this year and into the future.
This wasn’t a terrible defensive game from Iowa, but the team as a whole did struggle in dealing with the pick and roll, which Purdue used frequently throughout. Sometimes the pick left the player with the ball wide open for a three. Other times, there was a miscommunication about whether to switch on defense, leaving one or more players open.
Overcoming Bad Shooting
This is the worst shooting game Iowa has had all year aside from Czinano. Clark didn’t shoot well for large stretches of the game. The team went just 3/22 from three, far below their season average. Despite that, Iowa was able to do enough to earn a double-digit victory. They almost assuredly won’t shoot this poorly tomorrow.
Iowa returns to action at approximately 8 PM Central tomorrow against #19 Rutgers on Fox Sports 2. The Scarlet Knights finished the regular season 14-3 overall and 10-3 in the Big Ten. That finish was good enough to make them the #3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa defeated Rutgers 90-84 on December 31st in Carver. The Scarlet Knights played just one additional game after that, before experiencing a month-long pause due to Covid. They have won nine consecutive games since returning from that pause, though with many of those against the conference’s weaker teams.