By Susan Harman
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Well, the appetizers were served and devoured. Now to the main course.
The No. 7 Iowa women’s basketball team did to Wisconsin what it did to Rutgers, winning 91-61 Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Those two games were necessary to re-set the psyche of the team and renew its confidence, but the meat and potatoes of the schedule is now here with trips to Nebraska and eighth-ranked Maryland and second-ranked Indiana at home.
Iowa was the clear winner in every statistical category.
“We shot really well,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “If you take out the threes we were 77 percent from 2-point range. We dominated the paint 48-14 (points in the paint).”
Wisconsin actually led 12-5 in the first quarter. Iowa tightened its defense considerably after the media timeout and ran off 14 straight points. Iowa used a zone, believe it or not, to get more aggressive in guarding the perimeter. The Badgers seemed wedded to the 3-point shot, but with the defense going out to get the shooters suddenly the offense shut down.
“They hit some shots, and we needed to be more attuned defensively,” Bluder said. “We went to zone and our player (-to-player defense) wasn’t performing as well as we’d liked to have had it. I think we did a good job of mixing up our defenses as well.
“They started doubling the post, and I thought we did some good things adjusting to that and taking advantage of the double.”
The Badgers scored in only three of 21 possessions as the Hawkeyes erased the 12-5 deficit and built a 38-19 lead. Iowa made 10 of 12 shots in the second quarter (.833) and 20 of 31 (.645) in the first half to lead 48-28. The Hawkeyes shot 64.3 percent for the game, the best this season.
Nearly half of Wisconsin’s shots in the first half came behind the arc, and the Badgers made only four. Meanwhile Iowa made 4-of-9 threes and finished with 9-for-21. Caitlin Clark and Monica Czinano led the way with a combined 26 points in the decisive first half.
Wisconsin had trouble with Iowa’s bigs after 6-foot-4 freshman Serah Williams got two quick fouls. Before she left the Badgers were putting on a pretty effective double team in the post. Iowa outrebounded Wisconsin 19-12 in the first half and outscored it 30-6 in the paint.
“Getting Serah Williams in foul trouble really helped, their leading scorer and best rebounder,” Bluder said. “That was really important. We iso-ed her and did a really good job with that.”
Another oddity was that the Badgers never shot a free throw until halfway through the third quarter.
While Iowa didn’t get to the 111 points it did three days earlier against Rutgers, it was extremely efficient offensively. Clark made 9-of-12 shots and finished with 24 points. She had eight assists to just three turnovers.
“I kind of took what they gave me tonight,” Clark said. “I thought my shot selection was very good, and I was able to set some people up.”
Clark became the first Big Ten women’s player to be in the top 10 in career scoring (2,450 points) and assists (687). She is ninth in scoring and 10th in assists for her career, and she is a junior.
Czinano was her usual 8-for-11 and finished with 19 points. Hannah Stuelke was 3-for-4 and made all three of her free throws. McKenna Warnock looked like she did before her rib injury at Michigan State, scoring 16 points with four assists.
“We need her; she’s tough,” Bluder said. “And McKenna is just blue collar. She does whatever we need her to do. She never loses her composure out there. She’s level-headed. I think she deserves to be all-Big Ten.”
Iowa had 27 assists on 36 baskets, a sign of the good ball movement. Iowa played reserves throughout but emptied the bench in the final 6 minutes.
Iowa beat Wisconsin 102-71 back in December. The similarity here was Iowa’s offense could get just about any shot it wanted at any time it wanted it.
Iowa (21-5, 13-2) plays at Nebraska Saturday at 1 p.m. The Huskers lost at Minnesota Wednesday night.
“We control our own destiny right now as far as the Big Ten championship,” Bluder said.