#9 Iowa 88, Michigan State 61: #800

By BraydonRoberts5 on December 5, 2021 at 9:16 pm
The team celebrated on court with Coach Bluder after her 800th career win
IowaWBB/Twitter
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One difference between good teams and great teams is how they handle adversity. Does the team keep fighting and push through when trouble hits, or does it let one issue compound into many?

Unfortunately for this Iowa team, we got to find out the answer to that question much earlier in the season than anyone anticipated.

Coming out of Iowa’s two-week Covid pause, most expected the team to look rusty against Duke. Instead, we saw one of the worst offensive performances by an Iowa team in the last five years en route to a 79-64 defeat.

And now just three days later, Iowa began conference play against a good but not great Michigan State team. Would the Hawkeyes continue to struggle and let another game slip away, or would they rally and get the season back on track?

Iowa started off the game fairly well. Caitlin Clark hit a couple jump shots and had one of her better quarters of the season. Defensively, when Iowa managed to stop dribble penetration, they got stops. Iowa ended up with a 20-14 lead heading to the second quarter.

The second quarter was more back and forth. Iowa got the lead as high as 10 points, but saw Michigan State quickly cut that back to four points. Iowa battled back and got the lead back to nine only to see the Spartans go on a run to end the quarter. Iowa still led 39-37 at the half, but the Spartans had momentum back.

In the third quarter, Iowa left no doubt. That started on the defensive end, where Iowa contested almost every Michigan State shot, and rebounded most of the Spartan misses. Offensively, everything was working. Iowa got open threes and hit a few of them. Monika Czinano dominated in the post. And Iowa also got dribble drives to the basket and points in transition. All told, Iowa won the third quarter 33-11 and led the game 72-48.

Iowa’s momentum continued in the early 4th quarter, and the lead got as high as 84-48 before Iowa pulled most of the starters. The Hawkeyes eventually closed out an 88-61 victory.

As the above tweet shows, Caitlin Clark led Iowa with her third career triple-double. She had 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists. She still didn’t shoot well in the game (9/25 from the floor, 2/10 from 3-point range), but was great at facilitating, driving to the basket, and took better shots than she has all season. McKenna Warnock had 21 points and 6 rebounds on 8-10 shooting. Czinano’s minutes were limited due to fouls, but she still scored 19 points and grabbed 7 rebounds when she was in the game. A box score for the game is here.

#800

800 career victories is a remarkable achievement for Coach Bluder. It shows just how good of a coach she has been over a very long period of time. Even more remarkable, Coach Bluder’s best run as a coach is happening right now.

Three seasons ago, she led Iowa to an Elite 8. The team two years ago would’ve been favored to make the Sweet 16 before Covid cancelled the NCAA Tournament. Last year, a young Iowa team got back to the Sweet 16. And Coach Bluder’s best might well be ahead of her. Hopefully we’ll be back celebrating more career win milestones in a few years.

Defense

Michigan State is a fairly limited offensive team. The Spartans aren’t particularly good three-point shooters, and don’t have much of a post offense. Their plan A, B, and C today was to attack the basket.

But despite those limitations, Iowa should still take plenty away from this defensive performance. Iowa wasn’t great at limiting dribble penetration, but did well at contesting shots and limiting Michigan State’s offensive rebounds, particularly in the third and early fourth quarter. The stops Iowa strung together helped get the offense out running and unleashed its full potential.

Iowa will never be a great defensive team, but if the Hawks can find a way to contest more shots and grab more defensive rebounds consistently, they will win plenty of games and be competitive with most teams.  

Next Up

Iowa returns to action this Wednesday, December 8th at 6 PM CT for the biggest game of thenon-conference schedule, on the road at #14 Iowa State. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

The Cyclones are 7-1 on the season, with big wins over Drake, South Dakota State, and Penn State. Their only loss on the season was at LSU, a team now coached by former Baylor coach Kim Mulkey. Iowa is on a lengthy winning streak against Iowa State, but this is arguably the best Iowa State team that Iowa has faced in that streak.

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