We aren’t quite to March, but we’re starting to get some of the Vibes of March (dang, I think I need to trademark that! I’m sure it’s been said, but for this let’s pretend I came up with it). Teams are starting to separate themselves from the pack, teams are dealing with injuries, Covid, and ultimately, teams are trying to improve their seedings going into March Madness. Here’s a quick look back at the Hawkeyes’ win over Nebraska and a look ahead to contests against Penn State and Indiana.
Winning at Nebraska
Coach Lisa Bluder’s team improved to 11-6 (7-6) by winning on the road against Nebby. Caitlin Clark was ridiculous scoring 39 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists. It was Clark’s 7th game of 30 points or more this year. Here is Caitlin Clark from downtown vs Nebby.
Below is a defensive rebound by Caitlin Clark, an excellent outlet pass to Tomi Taiwo and a layup before the buzzer. This is the type of play that leads to winning basketball games.
McKenna Warnock played great with 19 and 7. Monika Czinano added 17 points in the winning effort. As a team, the Hawks hit on 50% of their three point shots, and 80% from the free throw line. When the ball goes through the hoop at that rate, you’re usually in pretty good shape. The Hawkeyes won the rebounding battle 40-34, despite Nebraska having a height advantage. Nebraska has some nice players in posts Isabelle Bourne (16 points) and Bella Cravens (12 points), and Sam Haiby (28 points) is an exceptional basketball player and fun to watch.
Penn State is Thursday
Penn State sits at 8-9/5-8. The Lady Lions come to Carver Hawkeye Arena and the Hawks are looking to add to their win total with a big rematch looming on the schedule. Penn State is coached by Carolyn Kieger. On a personal note, Coach Kieger was coached in high school by one of my best friends. It’s not a surprise to see her coaching at this level. Obviously back then she was an exceptional player, but you could tell that she understood the game at a very high level. Small world. Good luck to her, with the exception of 2 hours on Thursday.
Penn State plays a little slower than the Hawks offensively, and they also make teams work to score the basketball. The Lady Lions are averaging around 75 points while also giving up the same. Conversely, Iowa is scoring at a clip of 87.4 points per game while allowing 80.8.
Coach Kieger has three players averaging over 14 points per game. Kelly Jekot (15.9), Johnasia Cash (14.9), and Makenna Marisa (14.5) are a pretty formidable triumvirate to contend with. Iowa’s “Big Three” of Clark, Warnock, and Czinano will need to match this scoring while defending and staying out of foul trouble. I expect the Hawks to prevail, pulling away in the fourth quarter.
Rematch with #14 Indiana Sunday
Iowa travels to Indiana on Sunday, February 21st. The Hoosiers are an impressive 13-4, 11-2. Iowa lost the first meeting at home 72-85. The Hawkeyes competed and stuck with the Hoosiers, but the Hawks couldn’t get enough defensive stops and took a loss in a winnable game at home.
In the first meeting between these two teams Indiana outrebounded the Hawkeyes 42-35. The Hoosiers got to the paint too easy, scoring 50 of its 85 points in the lane. That’s a losing recipe if you’re a Hawk fan. The Iowa defenders need to do a better job this time around against Mackenzie Holmes (25 pts), Ali Patberg (23), Nicole Cardaño (17), and Grace Berger (15).
Now the Hawks must go on the road to get one back. It will be a very tough challenge. In order to win Iowa needs to get offensive production from Clark, Warnock, and Czinano and one other player needs to get 10-plus points. More importantly, Coach Bluder needs to get get better defensive production/effort/execution from her squad in order to get a road victory. If the Hawkeyes could steal one in Bloomington, that would go a long ways in improving its seeding for the Big Dance.