Just like the men, the Iowa women tipped off conference play last week. Unlike the men, the women didn't have to navigate a gauntlet that include a pair of top-five opponents (one on the road). So it's not too surprising that their opening week was a little more successful: they went 1-1, beating Ohio State 77-71 in overtime on Thursday, but losing 68-64 to Michigan on Sunday.
Against perennial nemesis Ohio State, Iowa led 31-30 at the half and used a 17-6 run in the first part of the second half to open up a 55-42 lead with a shade under ten minutes to go. Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes pretty much stopped scoring after that -- they scored just 8 more points in the remaining 9:55. That was just barely enough to fend off a spirited Ohio State comeback and take the game to overtime -- in fact, they needed a pair of Morgan Johnson free throws with 20 seconds left just to get the game to overtime. In overtime, though, the Hawkeyes shrugged off the blown lead and took control behind six straight points from Theairra Taylor. Taylor, one of the many Iowa players who have sustained ACL injuries during their time at Iowa (AWBBPHG makes AIRBHG look like an absolute slacker) led Iowa with a career-high 19 points on 8/12 shooting, while Johnson chipped in with a double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds), and Samantha Logic had her typically brilliant all-around game (17 points on 5/7 shooting, 6 rebounds, 8 assists). Tayler Hill led the way for Ohio State with a whopping 34 points on 11/25 shooting.
Iowa led most of the way against Ohio State, but they were in catch-up mode for the bulk of the game against Michigan. Iowa had a 10-3 lead early on, but their last lead of the game came at 14-13 with 10:56 left in the first half. Michigan led 35-30 at halftime and the used scoring runs of 11-4 and 12-6 to eventually open up a 60-47 lead with 6:19 remaining. Iowa staged a pretty furious comeback at that point and eventually cut the deficit to 64-62 with 1:01 to go, but they were unable to get it any closer. Iowa missed five shots in the final minute, while Michigan made 4/6 free throws. Logic had another spectacular all-around game (16 points on 6/13 shooting, 9 rebounds, 9 assists), but she didn't get a ton of help. Taylor added 14 points on 5/9 shooting and Melissa Dixon had 17 points on 6/14 shooting. Iowa got very little production out of its front court -- Johnson and Bethany Doolittle combined for 10 points on 4/12 shooting and 8 rebounds -- and Jamie Printy had a wretched night shooting the ball (2/14, 1/9 from 3-point range).
These two games pointed out what could be Iowa's Achilles' heel this season, though: lack of depth. Iowa's starters played a lot of minutes in these two games. In the OT win over Ohio State, four players logged 39 minutes or more, while four players logged 32 minutes or more in the Michigan game. Dixon has been not just a key figure off the bench -- she's been essentially the only presence off the bench. Other players combined for 10 minutes against Ohio State, contributing 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 turnovers, and 5 fouls in that time. Against Michigan, non-Dixon bench players logged just 9 minutes, contributing 1 point and 1 rebound. If Bluder continues to put so much wear and tear on her starters (and Dixon), Iowa may not have anything left in the tank come March.
Iowa's next game is a road trip to Madison to take on Wisconsin. The game is at 7:30pm CT on Thursday, January 10, with television coverage from BTN. The Badgers are 0-2 in Big Ten play, 8-7 overall, and rank dead last in the league. This is a game Iowa really ought to win. The loss to Michigan crushed any hopes of Iowa cracking the AP top-25 (although they're not even in the "others receiving votes" category, so even a win over Michigan might not have been enough to get them ranked), while their Bracketology projection holds steady as a 5-seed (although that projection hasn't been updated since 12/31, so we should probably take them with a grain of salt).