#22 Iowa 96, #5 Indiana 91: Top-5 Victory

By BraydonRoberts5 on February 19, 2022 at 6:35 pm
Monika Czinano led Iowa with 22-points in its victory at #5 Indiana
IowaWBB/Twitter
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In ESPN’s latest Bracketology, Iowa is projected as a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament. That is a slight downgrade, as Iowa had been projected as a 6-seed for a while now. While Iowa doesn’t have any bad losses, the big issue with Iowa’s resume is that it doesn’t have any ranked wins.

Part of that is a result of Iowa’s unbalanced schedule. The Hawkeyes have only played four currently ranked teams so far in 23 games, but end the season with three of their final four games against ranked teams. A bigger part, though, is missed opportunities. Way back in December, Iowa played Iowa State close the whole game, but gave up one too many runs. Against Ohio State, Iowa led for much of the game, before late turnovers helped swing the game in the Buckeyes’ favor. And against Michigan and Maryland, Iowa’s poor defense led it into 20-point deficits, before furious second half comebacks fell just short.

Generally a game at the #5 team in the country wouldn’t seem like a great opportunity to finally get a ranked win, but this game was deceiving. Since returning from its Covid pause, Indiana has played a brutal schedule with little rest and little team depth. The Hoosiers have looked vulnerable in several games, and even lost this week at Nebraska. Could the Hawkeyes finally get the marquee win they've needed, or would ranked teams continue to be their Achilles’ heel?  

Iowa started the game on a 12-4 run thanks mostly to strong defense. The Hawks forced Indiana into jumpers or contested shots around the basket early, and the Hoosiers missed on most of them. Iowa, meanwhile, hit a couple threes, grabbed a few offensive rebounds, and spread the scoring around.

Iowa’s momentum continued after an Indiana timeout, and the Hawks quickly jumped out to a 21-6 lead. Indiana hit a couple baskets late in the quarter, but Iowa responded in kind, and the Hawks took a 25-11 lead into the second quarter. Monika Czinano had 10 points in the quarter, including a basket at the buzzer.

Iowa got an and-1 from Czinano to start the second quarter to extend the lead to 28-11. And then Indiana finally went on a run. Part of the run was Indiana finally getting to the basket and making shots. But another factor was Iowa’s foul trouble. Both Caitlin Clark and McKenna Warnock spent time on the bench in the quarter with two fouls apiece. Clark’s two fouls in particular were on the weaker end, but Indiana used their absence to cut Iowa’s lead down to 30-21.

But just as the Hawks looked like they might be in trouble, they went on another run of their won. Again this run began on defense, where Iowa’s 2-3 zone mostly limited Indiana’s penetration and forced bad shots. But Iowa also got good offensive contributions from Czinano, Warnock, and Kate Martin. A Czinano and-1 late in the half extended Iowa’s lead to 46-29, and that’s where the game stood at halftime. Caitlin Clark had just two first half points, though she also had seven assists.

Iowa’s momentum continued into the third quarter, and the lead quickly built to 24 at 61-37. Indiana battled to get the lead back under 20 points, but Iowa kept scoring offensively and the Hoosiers couldn’t get any closer. The Hawks led 71-49 after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, Indiana went on a quick run and cut Iowa’s lead to 73-57. But after a timeout, the Iowa offense got back on track and rebuilt the lead to 19 points with just over six minutes to play. At that point, Iowa seemed to take its foot off the gas. Indiana began to apply more pressure to force turnovers, and Iowa got sloppy. In the next three minutes, as Indiana cut Iowa’s lead to 11 points, and the crowd was back into the game.

Just as Iowa looked to be in real danger, the Hawks seemingly put the game away, with a Gabbie Marshall three, a stop, and another basket in quick succession. The lead was back to 16, and the game looked over again.

But it wasn’t. Iowa’s implosion had just truly begun. In the next few minutes, Iowa turned the ball over at an alarming rate, and the defense was non-existent. Indiana cut Iowa’s lead to 10 points on two occasions, then finally got it to single digits.

Still Indiana kept coming, not giving the Hawkeyes a moment to breathe. A Tomi Taiwo foul of Indiana’s three-point shooter—and the three made free throws that followed—cut Iowa’s lead to just four points with 12 seconds left.

After an Indiana foul, Marshall missed one of her free throw attempts to keep Iowa’s anxiety levels high, but Indiana finally missed on the other end, allowing Iowa to (finally!) close out the 96-91 victory.

Czinano led Iowa with 22 points on 9/13 shooting; she also grabbed six rebounds. Warnock had a huge game in her return, scoring 21 points on 6/8 shooting, grabbing 6 rebounds, and adding 5 assists. Clark was relatively quiet with 18 points, but she also added 12 assists. Indiana guarded her tightly, and she chose to distribute or defer to others instead of forcing things.

Kate Martin had perhaps her best game of the season with 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Gabbie Marshall was the final Hawkeye in double-figures with 10. A box score for the game is here.

Near Disaster

That final six minutes was hard to watch. Iowa looked like a deer in the headlights most of that time, allowing Indiana to force them into plenty of bad turnovers and getting bullied on the defensive end.

One issue was the referees allowing Indiana to make plenty of contact without a whistle. Clark in particular was getting hit hard without drawing any fouls. But another issue was Iowa’s other players not stepping up. Indiana was swarming Clark, but when she tried to pass out of trouble, Marshall, Martin, and Czinano were all turning it over. Or Clark was forced into a long pass that didn’t connect.

To make matters worse, Iowa missed plenty of free throws in that stretch that would’ve put the game away earlier. The Hawks are the best free throw shooting team in the country, but couldn’t make enough of them when they counted tonight to give themselves an easier victory.

Best Team Effort

While the last six minutes was about as bad as Iowa has looked, it shouldn’t take away from the team’s performance in the first 34 minutes. In that stretch defensively, Iowa’s posts basically made Indiana star Mackenzie Holmes a non-factor. The guards made Indiana’s very good guards work for every basket they made.

Offensively, Iowa took care of the ball. hit open threes, and made shots around the basket. And virtually every player contributed a big shot or two to build or maintain the lead. McKenna Warnock’s return was especially big, as she hit big shots, grabbed important rebounds, and went 6/6 at the line.

Nationally, most people think Iowa is Caitlin Clark and everyone else. Or they think Iowa is all about Clark and Czinano. But last year when Iowa was at its best, everyone was making big contributions. This year, players like Martin, Marshall, and Taiwo haven’t been as consistently good from game to game. If Iowa’s role players start to play consistently well again, Iowa could still achieve some of their big goals for this season.

Huge Win

The final six minutes of this game also shouldn’t make people overlook how big of a win this is for the Hawkeyes. Iowa hadn’t defeated an AP-Top 5 team on the road since 1992. In a season lacking a marquee victory, Iowa got basically the biggest one it could today.

The win at Indiana should at a minimum get Iowa back up to the projected 6-seed line. It also puts Iowa within one game of the conference lead again, and puts a Top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament back in play.

Next Up

Iowa returns to action on Monday, February 21st at 7 PM CT at home against… this same Indiana Hoosiers team. In order to get both games against Indiana in after the initial postponement, today’s game at Indiana was moved up a day, and Monday’s game was inserted back into the schedule. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

It will be interesting to see how the rematch in Iowa City goes. The Hawks dominated most of this game, but Indiana came on very strong late. Did that late run wake the Hoosiers back up? Will Indiana press most of the game to try and capitalize on Iowa’s shaky ball-handling? Can Iowa string together a second great game and add another big ranked win to its resume? We'll find out in just over 48 hours.

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