By Susan Harman
IOWA CITY, Iowa – This is the Iowa team that was tabbed fourth in the nation before the season began.
Like all teams it’s had ups and downs, although not that many downs. But the way Iowa played against Penn State on Saturday in a 108-67 victory is what prognosticators were thinking when they picked the Hawkeyes to be a top-5 team.
Iowa’s outstanding play at Michigan was followed up by a well-played drubbing of Northwestern. This game was the cherry on top.
Iowa’s extraordinary first quarter lit the fuse for the blowout.
*Iowa bolted to a 34-10 lead after a Caitlin Clark to Monika Czinano lob with one minute left. The Nittany Lions could not do anything with Czinano all game.
*The Hawkeyes scored on 13 of their first 14 possessions and on 15 of their 19 first-quarter possessions.
*The Hawkeyes shot 75 percent from the floor in the first quarter (15-of-20) while Penn State made 6-of-16.
*Iowa had 13 assists on 20 baskets and committed only two turnovers.
*Iowa scored 24 of its 34 points in the paint; 12 points came off transition.
“It was as good of a first quarter as I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
The passing was crisp and pinpoint, and the shots were on the money. It was a well-orchestrated symphony.
“I just thought the first quarter we took control immediately,” Bluder said. “We set the tempo offensively and defensively. And I thought our crowd (12,436) was amazing and gave us some unbelievable energy to begin this game.”
“I think it was really good just to see everything come together,” senior McKenna Warnock said.
Gabbie Marshall’s three capped an opening 17-4 spurt and set off a roar from the big crowd. A couple possessions later Hannah Stuelke’s fastbreak basket also brought the house down. The scoring was spread out, and it looked like Iowa could score at will.
The Penn State full-court press was a non-factor.
Iowa’s 57 first-half points tied its production at Wisconsin for the most this season in the first half. The 34-point quarter ties its opening period against Dartmouth. Only a 35-point quarter against out-manned Evansville was better.
Iowa finished with five double-figure scorers: Clark 27, Czinano 20, McKenna Warnock 16, Sydney Affolter 12 and Stuelke 11. Warnock had 10 rebounds, and Clark had 10 assists. Twelve players scored.
“Our depth is coming through now,” Bluder said.
Don’t forget the defense, either.
Marshall’s defense on PSU’s leading scorer Makenna Marissa was spectacular. Marshall worked tirelessly to deny Marissa the ball and kept her from getting to the basket. Marissa, an all-Big Ten pick a year ago and averaging 18.4 points, did not score in the first quarter and managed only five overall.
“Gabbie Marshall, the way she played defense tonight was incredible,” Clark said. “I don’t think people understand that Makenna Marissa is one of the best players in our conference. To hold her to 2-for-23 from the field, 0-for-4 from three, that’s pretty impressive. That’s a big deal.
“Their offense runs through her, so when you can shut her down it kind of makes their life pretty hard. That’s exactly what Gabbie did, and it allowed us to get going in transition.”
It’s very difficult to deploy a full-court press if you’re not making baskets. That was a double-edged sword for the Nittany Lions: they couldn’t press much because they shot 36 percent from the field, and Iowa was taking the rebound and running with it.
This game was never close because Iowa never let the Lions breathe.
“I give credit to our crowd and to our bench,” Bluder said. “When the bench comes in and plays that well you avoid a letdown. At halftime (Iowa led 57-29) we knew they were very capable of scoring quickly and we needed to keep our focus for 20 more minutes.”
“I think we just focus on being a spark off the bench,” Affolter said. “We need to play hard when we go in and give our starters a break.”
Iowa 14-4, 6-1 is on the road at Michigan State on Wednesday and at Ohio State on Jan. 23. The Buckeyes are still unbeaten and atop the conference standings. Michigan State is 10-8, 2-5.
— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) January 14, 2023