Now that the dust has settled, I’m still disappointed and I know you are as well. I live in the Twin Cities. I was somewhat confident that our Hawkeye women’s basketball team would make an epic run and reach the Final Four in my backyard (party would have been at my place). After a heartbreaking 64-62 loss to Creighton the incredible season came crashing to a cataclysmic conclusion. The Hawkeyes only gave up 64 points. That is the good news. If this team had an Achilles heel it was defense... and rebounding. The lack of rebounding came into play. The Hawks got destroyed on the boards 52-37. You don’t advance in March getting taken to the woodshed on the boards like that. What was frustrating was that it’s not like Creighton is a towering team. Morgan Maly (6’1”) had 13 rebounds. Emma Ronsiek (6’1”) collected 10, and Molly Mogenson (5’7”) hustled her way to 8. Rebounding is about position, hustle, and anticipation/knowledge as to where the ball is going to go once it’s shot. As a coach getting owned on the boards is never fun, but it can at least be somewhat understood if there is a huge height discrepancy. The fact that this wasn’t the case will stick in Coach Lisa Bluder’s craw for the next several months if not forever. Iowa is not an overly quick team. Those loose ball / long rebounds often come down to intangibles. Sigh.
The loss can not take anything away from the spectacular season this team had. Winning the regular-season B1G championship and the B1G tournament championship is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment. This team gave us quite a few memories. The increase in the popularity of girls’ and women’s basketball in Iowa and the Midwest because of this team cannot even be comprehended. Anyway, on to next year.
All Five Starters Return
It has to be almost unheard of in basketball for a college team to have all five starters return for a third year. Monika Czinano
recently announced she will come back for her super-senior season. This is like getting the number one recruit in the nation. The Hawks finished 24-8 (14-4 B1G). The Hawks hit a rough patch because of Covid and a few injuries. They were playing their best basketball leading up to the Creighton loss. Some of the statistics this team compiled are mind-boggling. As a team the Hawkeyes were second in the NCAA in scoring at 84.2 ppg. The Hawkeyes were first in free throw percentage at 84.6%. The next closest team shot 81.9%. Caitlin Clark
averaged 27 points per game (1st in the country). She led the NCAA in assists (257/8.0) and triple-doubles (5). Guess what? She will get better. My guess is that she also is mad at how this season ended. I wouldn’t want to have to guard a ticked off Caitlin Clark. Monika Czinano led the country in field goal percentage at 67.9%. Czinano posts up with the best of them and her footwork and soft touch are unrivaled. As an old-school basketball person, she is a joy to watch. Young boys and girls should watch her play. Coach Jan Jensen
deserves a shoutout for developing Megan Gustafson and Czinano. That is not an accident, nor is it simply ability. The Hawks are also well-versed in entering the ball into the post. So many players and teams refuse to pass the ball into the post even though an offensive player has their player pinned deep in the lane. McKenna Warnock, Kate Martin, and Gabbie Marshall all bring valuable skills to the table. Warnock is a very good rebounder and excellent shooter from beyond the arc, Martin is good at everything and she is tough, and Marshall is scrappy and led the team in steals. Each of these players will go into the offseason looking to improve upon a few things that will help both the team and them individually. Clearly Clark and Czinano get a great deal of attention on the opposition’s scouting report. These three will have many opportunities to make teams pay for selling out to defend Clark and Czinano.
Starting 5 Stats
Caitlin Clark 27.0 ppg 8.0 reb 8.0 assists
Monika Czinano 21.2 ppg 6.2 reb
McKenna Warnock 11.0 ppg 6.5 reb 2.8 assists
Kate Martin 7.2 ppg 4.9 reb 3.5 assists
Gabbie Marshall 6.8 ppg 2.1 assists
Look for an Increase in Playing Time and Numbers for Feuerbach
Iowa State transfer Kylie Feuerbach played in every game this season. She averaged 3.4 points and 1.3 rebounds. She shot an excellent 86.2% from the free throw line so her shot mechanics are solid. With more minutes and comfort with Iowa’s style and her teammates, look for her production to go up.
A Healthy Goodman and the Development of O’Grady
The Hawks were without the services of 6’3” post Sharon Goodman this season. She should return from a knee injury. In 2020-21 Goodman played in 30 games, averaging 8.7 minutes. She averaged 3.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, and 1.9 blocks. Iowa relied on true first-year player Addison O’Grady (6’4”) to spell Czinano. O’Grady played in all 32 games (10 min/game) and averaged 4.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg. She shot 53% from the field and 79% from the free throw line. Both will gain valuable experience this offseason working with Jensen and going head-to-head with Czinano.
The Hawkeyes only lose Logan Cook and Tomi Taiwo from this year’s team. Taiwo played in every game, often providing a spark. She also was called on to start five games.
The Iowa women’s team has been good for a number of years in a row. They have received much publicity with Megan Gustafson and Caitlin Clark. This has most definitely provided a boost to recruiting. The Hawks have three recruits coming in who could step in and contribute. Iowa has Taylor McCabe, Jada Gyamfi, and Hannah Stuelke lined up to join the program. All three of these players played together (along with current Hawkeye Sydney Affolter) for the well-respected AAU program All-Iowa Attack. I read an article recently written by Jeff Linder where Coach Bluder was asked about next season. I thought it rather interesting that she mentioned returning five starters, and that her other comment stated they were excited about the incoming players. This was not meant to slight the current non-starters on the roster, but this led me to believe that she thinks she has some recruits who can step in and play. Depth is always a positive.
This team is well-coached, they play hard, they play together, and they are fun to watch. Let’s get this team back to the Sweet 16 and beyond next year. As always, Go Hawks!