Iowa's four-game winning streak in Big Ten play came to a halt last night in Minneapolis, as the Gophers upset #11 Iowa, 93-80. This game looked like trouble for Iowa for a while -- it was the third game in a five-day span and the second road game in that trio of games. I don't know how much of a factor fatigue was, but Iowa shot an uncharacteristically poor 38% from the floor (and just 31% -- 11/35 -- from deep) and didn't seem to have their legs under them on several shots.
It was also a troublesome-looking game for Iowa because Minnesota was a bad-looking matchup for Iowa. The Gophers are strong offensively and shoot well in most categories (although they're just so-so at 3s at 32%). They shot the lights out on Tuesday night, though: 50.7% (35/69) from the floor, including a blistering 66.7% (8/12) from deep and a very sharp 93.8% (15/16) from the free throw line. They also dominated Iowa on points in the paint, scoring 48 there versus 30 for Iowa, which was an area of concern for Iowa before the game because for all the virtues this team possesses, size is not one of them. Bethany Doolittle is the only regular player for Iowa who's much above 6-feet tall (she's 6-4).
But more than anything this game was trouble for Iowa because Minnesota had Amanda Zahui B and Iowa didn't. Zahui B had a jaw-dropping, record-crushing, box score-melting performance:
39 points (16/31 shooting), 29 rebounds (7 offensive), plus 2 assists, 2 steals, and 4 blocks
If the AI did that in a video game, you'd hit the reset button at halftime.
Zahui B was a complete force of nature in this game. She was an immovable (and unguardable) object in the post and able to convert a slew of close looks for easy buckets. She had a massive influence on defense as well; though she only blocked four shots officially, her presence altered countless other shots or just plain kept Iowa hanging around the perimeter for huge swaths of the game. That was a problem for Iowa on a night when those long jumpers weren't falling with much consistency. It should also be noted that while Zahui B would have been a huge challenge for Iowa no matter what last night, that challenge became virtually impossible to overcome when it became clear that the refs were going to swallow their whistles so much where she was involved. As dumbfounding as the points and rebounds portions of her stat line are, the fact that she was only whistled for one foul in the game is almost equally as stupefying. She left a trail of black-and-gold bodies in her wake last night and while her own skill and impossible-to-match size were the biggest reasons why, the fact that she wasn't whistled for a few more fouls played a role as well.
Samantha Logic tried to put Iowa on her back and carry the team to a win -- it's damn hard to find fault with a stat line like this:
26 points (11/19 shooting), 13 assists (to ZERO turnovers!), 8 rebounds, and 1 block
Unfortunately, Logic didn't get quite enough help. Doolittle's performance was overshadowed (in more ways than one) by Zahui B, but she still had a good showing herself: 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Melissa Dixon chipped in 17 points, but she didn't shoot the ball very well at all: 6/19 overall, 5/17 from deep. Ally Disterhoft and Whitney Jennings really struggled, combining for 11 points on 4/20 shooting (though they did add 6 rebounds and 7 assists).
With the loss, Lisa Bluder remains stuck on 299 wins at Iowa. She'll have another opportunity to get win #300 on Saturday night.
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ESPN posted a new bracketology update yesterday:
Iowa remains a #3 seed and I don't think that will change next week, even with the loss last night. They were a rock-solid #3 (maybe even knocking on the door of a #2 seed) before and this was far from a bad enough loss to send them tumbling down the seed lines (especially given the overall strength of their resume). It would be nice to get out of UConn's bracket, though. A potential matchup with UConn would be way (way) down the line, but still -- let's avoid those terrormonsters as long as possible, yeah?
Iowa's also moved up to #11 in the newest USA Today/Coaches Poll, knocking on the door of the top ten, although they won't be barging into the top 10 next week after their loss last night. Alas. They should remain around the top 15, though.
NEXT: Iowa gets a much-needed break after the hectic action of the last five days and returns to action on Saturday night at Ohio State (6 PM, BTN). The Buckeyes are 10-5 in B1G play and tied for 4th place.