#25 Iowa 88, Minnesota 78: Defensive Issues

By BraydonRoberts5 on February 9, 2022 at 9:24 pm
Tomi Taiwo scored 14 points and played well defensively in a win over Minnesota where most of her teammates didn't

Caitlin Clark was incredible last week. That started Monday when she scored 43 points and dished 7 assists against Ohio State. She followed that with a 27-point, 11-assist, and 11-rebound triple-double against Wisconsin. And she finished the week Sunday with an incredible 46-point, 10-assist performance at #6 Michigan.

But after all that Caitlin would be the first to tell you that she doesn’t consider last week a success. Why? Because Iowa lost two of those games.

Simply put, the Hawkeyes can’t keep losing games where Clark plays incredibly well. Not if they want to be in a good position to advance to another Sweet 16 or further. The journey to finish off more wins started tonight against Minnesota.

 The first quarter started fast offensively for both teams. Clark dominated for Iowa, scoring 12 points, adding a couple assists, and grabbing 4 rebounds. Defensively, Iowa forced Minnesota into a bunch of jumpers, but the Gophers hit their fair share and converted a few offensive rebounds into putback baskets to stay close. Iowa led 27-21 after the first quarter, but the lead certainly wasn’t comfortable.

In the first few minutes of the second quarter, Iowa pushed the lead to 13 thanks to continued strong offense and better work on the defensive glass. But then Iowa’s offense started forcing difficult shots too early in the shot clock, and the defense faltered. Minnesota went on a quick 8-0 run to narrow Iowa’s lead down to just five points. The Hawks struggled to shoot and rebound the rest of the half, but managed to keep a 42-37 lead heading into halftime. Clark had just one point and one rebound after her great first quarter.

Minnesota carried its momentum over to the third quarter, and quickly cut Iowa’s lead down to one point. For the rest of the quarter, the teams traded baskets. Iowa would make a shot to extend the lead to 3-4 points, only for Minnesota to respond and narrow that gap. Iowa took a narrow 62-61 lead into the fourth quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Iowa finally got a little breathing room. The Hawkeye defense finally got a few stops in a row, and converted offensively to push the lead out to 69-61 and force a Minnesota timeout. Iowa then pushed the lead to 12 before Minnesota could stop the bleeding, and by then the game was essentially over. Iowa closed out an 88-78 victory.

Clark led Iowa with 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. She also had three steals and forced a few other turnovers. Monika Czinano added 23 points, though she shot uncharacteristically poorly for a long stretch of the game. Tomi Taiwo added 14 points, and did particularly in on-ball defense in a game where most of her teammates didn’t. Kate Martin was the final Hawkeye in double-figures with 10. A box score for the game is here.

Defensive Issues

At the halfway point of the season, it seemed clear that Iowa’s defense had improved. The Hawks will never be mistaken for a good defensive team, but they were allowing far less than the 80 points per game they surrendered last year. That defensive improvement hasn’t been as clear in the last month or so of the season. The Hawks have still had the occasional good defensive performance, but against the Big Ten’s better teams, they’ve mostly gotten into shootouts.

Two of the primary culprits for Iowa’s defensive woes are not closing out on shooters and surrendering far too many offensive rebounds. Tonight’s game against Minnesota was a great example. The Gophers aren’t a good team, but they do have good shooters and relatively athletic posts that attack the offensive glass. Tonight, the Gophers took advantage of Iowa’s weaknesses, and their shooting and rebounding helped keep them in the game far longer than they should’ve been.

The best teams in the country have better shooters and more athletic rebounders than Minnesota. If Iowa wants to beat the best teams in the country, the effort on the defensive end has to improve significantly.

Next Up

Iowa returns to action on Monday, February 14th at 8 PM CT at home against Maryland. The game will be televised on ESPN 2.

For years now Maryland has been the class of the Big Ten, but that isn’t quite true this year. Maryland is still a good team, but is just 18-6 overall and 10-3 in the conference. While many of those six losses are to the best teams in the country, Maryland just hasn’t looked like the team that returned basically every contributor from last year’s conference championship squad.

Even in a down year, though, the Terps are still one of the best offensive teams in the country, and most of their team is more athletic than Iowa. A repeat of tonight’s defensive performance on Monday will likely end in an Iowa loss.

View 2 Comments