What a difference a week makes. A week ago Iowa got thumped by Purdue, 90-73, their third straight defeat and fifth loss in their last six games. A once-promising season was beginning to slip away. A week later, Iowa has stopped the bleeding from that losing skid and won their second game in a row, dropping Northwestern in Evanston, 79-64. To be sure, back-to-back wins over Michigan (t-9th) and Northwestern (t-12th) are not the most head-turning wins. But Iowa needed wins and they've been getting them this week -- job done.
Much like they did a few days ago in the win over Michigan, Iowa used a strong finishing kick to pull away from Northwestern and secure the victory. Iowa had a slim 54-50 lead through three periods, but they were able to blow the game open in the fourth quarter, outscoring Northwestern 25-14. Iowa prevailed because a cold-shooting Northwestern team got even colder at the end of the game. Northwestern shot just 34.7% for the game, 35% in the first half and 34.3% in the second half. They were especially icy from long range -- 1/11 (9.1%) in the first half, 2/7 (16.7%) in the second. The Wildcats went 3/16 (18.7%) in the final quarter. Iowa, meanwhile, shot 6/9 (66.6%) in that quarter; they also made 11/14 free throws down the stretch.
In fact, free throws were a huge advantage for Iowa in this game -- more in terms of quantity than quality, though. Iowa converted on just 17 of 31 trips to the charity stripe, a weak 54.8% for the game. Megan Gustafson especially struggled at the line, making just 3/11 attempts. All those free throws helped offset the fact that Iowa got pounded on the offensive glass (Northwestern rebounded 17 of their own misses, while Iowa could get just 8) and also turned the ball over more than Northwestern (14 versus 10). Northwestern had big advantages in second chance points (20 to 4) and points off turnovers (14 to 6), but ultimately it didn't matter because Iowa shot 50% in the first half (15/30) and 53.8% in the second half (14/26). Iowa was especially good from 2-point range, making 25/43 shots (58.1%) inside the three-point line.
Megan Gustafson may have struggled to help Iowa at the free throw line, but she added plenty of value elsewhere -- she put up 15 points (on 6/13 shooting) and hauled in 13 rebounds and swatted 3 shots, to boot. That's a pretty strong showing from a freshman. She wasn't the only freshman to shine, either -- Freshman guard Tania Davis added 11 points (on 5/10 shooting) and 4 assists (against zero turnovers). Davis and Gustafson both got the start and repaid Bluder's confidence in them with strong performances. Chase Coley led Iowa with 19 points on 8/10 shooting and also recorded 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block, which is another solid performance for her in a stretch full of similar showings. Ally Disterhoft had her usual strong showing (18 points on 6/10 shooting, 5 rebounds, and an assist), but it's the ability of her teammates to step up and provide value that has enabled Iowa to turn around that previous losing stretch. \
The emergence of Coley, Davis, and Gustafson also highlights what a young Iowa team this is; in fact, including Whitney Jennings, Iowa starts four freshmen or sophomores. Even Disterhoft, the nominal "old head" in the starting lineup, is just a crusty old... junior, meaning she'll be back for another year. Iowa's liable to take a few more lumps this year -- not many Big Ten teams have been as accommodating as Michigan and Northwester nwere the last two games -- but this very young team also seems to be figuring things and improving each game out. Can't argue with that.
Hawkeyes dominate Northwestern in Evanston. Check out today's video for highlights and reaction! https://t.co/h2gRFdkBOL— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) February 1, 2016
NEXT: Iowa's road trip continues with a stopover in Bloomington to face Indiana (13-9, 5-5 B1G, tied for 7th -- with Iowa) on Thursday night (6 PM CT, BTN). Time to turn that two-game winning streak into a three-gamer.