By Susan Harman
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The fourth-ranked Iowa women’s basketball team was going to win this game. It was just a matter of exactly how and when. After a sluggish first quarter when Iowa was given open three-point shots galore but missed them, the Hawkeyes blew it open by making those same shots in the second quarter.
Iowa defeated Southern University 87-34 Monday in the season-opener for both teams. The women’s game was the second of a Hawkeye doubleheader at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It wasn’t the prettiest of games to start the season,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “Southern came out very physical. I think at first it kind of shocked us, but we got it going in the second quarter.”
The Hawkeyes missed all eight of their shots from 3-point range in the first quarter as they slowly built a 15-10 lead over the Jaguars. All-American Caitlin Clark came to the rescue in the second quarter making two threes in a row and then three foul shots when fouled in the act of shooting a third three.
After that the floodgates opened. McKenna Warnock, Kate Martin, Addie O’Grady and Shateah Wetering all made shots behind the arc in the second quarter as Iowa outscored the Jags 28-5. Iowa made nine of 16 3-point shots in the second quarter.
“I thought we responded well,” Clark said.
Southern seemed more concerned with shutting down the paint, and its sagging defense did bottle up Iowa’s post players. Iowa’s all-Big Ten center, Monika Czinano, only got two, shots in the first half. But the perimeter was left wide open.
“They were kind of bear-hugging her there,” Bluder said. “But she drew six fouls tonight.”
Bluder thought that when the players saw themselves wide open on the outside it was too tempting to just launch shots instead of working on running their offense and she pointed that out at halftime.
“I wasn’t expecting them to clog the paint as much as they did,” Clark said. “I think we could have penetrated and pitched more than we did.”
Iowa’s defense forced Southern to shoot jump shots. The Jags wanted to drive to the hoop and take advantage of their quickness, but the combination of Iowa’s perimeter players maintaining good position and Iowa’s much taller post players waiting inside shut down the Jags. Southern shot just 16.7 percent (5-for-30) in the first half and made 1-of-12 shots in the second quarter.
“I thought we contested their mid-range jumpers, which is the cornerstone of our defense,” Clark said. “We want them to take hard shots. We don’t want to give them easy threes. They have some players who can shoot threes, but I thought we contested them pretty well.”
Southern shot 21 percent overall (12-57).
Clark led all scorers and rebounders with 20 points and nine rebounds. Czinano had 10 points and McKenna Warnock had eight rebounds.
Iowa was able to play 13 players and the minutes were spread out.
After being whistled for two charging fouls in the first half, freshman Hannah Stuelke scored six quick points in the third quarter before being subbed out. She finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Both O’Grady and Sharon Goodman were effective in the post. Bluder has said Goodman is a little behind because she’s still getting back after last year’s knee surgery, but she is a real force around the basket.
Wetering, despite wearing a knee brace, was anything but tentative and showed aggressive moves to the basket to go with her 3-pointer.
Freshman sharpshooter Taylor McCabe made the first 3-pointers of her career after breaking all the records in the state of Nebraska as a prep. Bluder thought Stuelke, Molly Davis and McCabe did especially well off the bench.
Freshman Jada Gyamfi did not dress and has a walking boot on her left foot. Bluder said she’s had a sprained ankle but expects her to resume practice this week. Martin played with a face mask reminiscent of the one she used last season after breaking her nose in practice.
“I thought our bench play was really solid tonight,” Bluder said. “I’m excited about it because I think we have a little more depth than we’ve ever had.”
Iowa plays host to Evansville on Thursday night at 6:30.
— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) November 8, 2022