By Susan Harman
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa looked for much of its game against Northern Iowa like it was suffering from post-finals funk. There were missed shots, missed passes and matador defense in transition.
But the Hawkeyes got it together in time to defeat a determined Panther team 88-74 Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena before a crowd of 13,394 on Girl Scout Day.
“Obviously we had some time off, so we felt like we were really prepared and ready,” Iowa’s Caitlin Clark said. “But it felt like we were kind of rusty. We couldn’t get into a flow. I don’t know if that was because of the fouling or if it was just because we didn’t run our offense.”
“I thought it was a really good game,” UNI coach Tanya Warren said. “I thought we played extremely well.”
Iowa won the game at the foul line where it outscored the Panthers 28-12.
“We did a great job of getting to the free-throw line,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “When your shot’s not falling, it’s a great thing to do. They got into a little bit of foul trouble, so we wanted to keep going after them.”
The third quarter was key. Iowa led 46-39 at halftime. The Hawkeyes made 13 of 14 free throws in the quarter. Clark made six, Monika Czinano 5-of-6 and Sydney Affolter was 2-for-2. The Hawkeyes outscored the Panthers by six in the quarter to build their lead.
“When they double (team) they’re going to foul more. That’s just how it works,” Czinano said. “It was good to convert from the free-throw line. That’s been an emphasis for me.”
Neither Clark nor Czinano shot as well as they normally do. Clark was 6-of-17 and Czinano 6-of-14. But 10 of Czinano’s 22 points came at the line as did 13 of Clark’s 26.
Iowa’s other big advantage came with turnovers. UNI committed 20 turnovers, and Iowa converted them into 26 points.
“I thought the third quarter kind of got away from us,” Warren said. “We had a stretch where we didn’t score, and you’ve got to give Iowa credit. Anytime you can score 26 points off of turnovers you’re going to win a lot of basketball games. And get to the free-throw line 31 times.
“I thought we had a chance. We just didn’t do what we needed to do to take care of the basketball.”
Iowa mixed up its defenses, and Bluder thought the team’s second-half zone was effective.
“They were 2-for-19 from the field in the second half against our zone defense,” she said. “We created some turnovers from that.”
Overall the Panthers made only 12 of 31 second-half shots.
Yet the Panthers hung around and made Iowa work until the end.
“Maybe the middle of the fourth quarter,” Clark said, when asked when they could feel comfortable. “I know they made a three after we made a big three, but honestly I thought they answered really well when we went on a run.
“But I thought down the stretch we made a few big shots, got the ball into Monika because we knew they couldn’t really guard her. We knew with teams like that they’re never out of the picture. They have the firepower.”
UNI had four players in double figures led by Grace Boffeli’s 16. Speedy guard Maya McDermott added 15. McKenna Warnock and Kate Martin added nine apiece for Iowa.
Iowa (9-3) was fortunate that UNI (5-4) didn’t completely capitalize on its 14 offensive rebounds. The Panthers only outscored the Hawkeyes 9-6 on second-chance opportunities.
The victory means the Hawkeyes swept their three in-state Division I rivals this season.
“I’m happy we’re state champs,” Bluder said. “When you think of the quality of competition in this state between Iowa State, UNI and Drake, it’s a tough thing to do to sweep them all.”
“It’s an honor to be on a team that swept it,” Czinano said. “When I got here I definitely didn’t realize what Iowa had in the teams we get to go against.”
“We’ve been tested in all three games we’ve played,” Clark said of the in-state round robin. “That’s credit to our coaches. We don’t have to play Iowa State, UNI and Drake, but we want to. That’s what’s so great about Iowa. We want competition. You’re very familiar with the girls on the other side of the ball and that’s what makes it fun too.”
Iowa plays host to Dartmouth (2-10) Wednesday at 2 p.m. in its last game before the Big Ten starts in earnest.
— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) December 18, 2022