For the second time in less than a week, an Iowa basketball team had their season ended by a hot-shooting opponent. Unlike Gonzaga against the men on Sunday, Baylor didn't torch the Hawkeyes from deep -- the Lady Bears shot just 30% (3/10) from long range. But they did make 50% of their 2-point attempts (28/56). That was plenty good, especially against an Iowa team that had one of their worst shooting performances of the season. Iowa made just 40.6% of their shots from the field (28/69), including only 30.4% (7/23) from 3-point range. That kind of shooting just isn't going to get it done against a team as potent as Baylor.
The Baylor defense deserves a lot of credit for Iowa's poor shooting -- they harassed Iowa's shooters all night and prevented them from getting good looks from deep. Baylor did seem to get away with several fouls that might have been called on another night (they were only called for 9 fouls versus 17 for Iowa) and they had a considerable free throw advantage in the game (they made 16/18 versus 3/7 for Iowa, though Iowa didn't even attempt any free throws until well into the second half). Baylor's 9/9 edge in free throws in the first half (versus 0/0 for Iowa) certainly made a difference -- if the game was closer or tied at half, maybe things turn out differently. That said, the biggest reason Iowa shot was their own poor shooting -- they just could not get anything going on a very consistent basis.
Iowa opened the game sluggishly and fell behind 8-0 before charging back to make it 8-7. Baylor opened up an even bigger lead late in the first half, going up 36-23 after a Nina Davis layup. But with the game on the verge of slipping away, Iowa responded with their best performance of the game, putting together an 11-0 run and drawing within two points, 36-34. That run was sparked by the return of Bethany Doolittle (who picked up two early fouls and had to sit for a good chunk of the first half); Doolittle contributed 6 points, 2 rebounds, and a block to key Iowa's run.
Alas, that was as close as Iowa would get the rest of the game. Baylor made two 3s to end the half and go up 42-34 heading into the break. Iowa still had a chance to respond with a strong start to the second half, but a 16-6 run by Baylor to open the half put things out of reach. Down 58-40 with 12 minutes to go, Iowa just wasn't going to mount a comeback -- especially not with the way they were shooting. Iowa has shot better in the 2nd half in many games this year, but not here -- Iowa made just 38.2% (13/34) of their shots in the second half.
Baylor's key players, G Niya Johnson and F Nina Davis, had strong games -- Johnson had 10 points and a whopping 16 (!) assists, as well as 7 rebounds, while Davis added 20 points (on 7/13 shooting) and 6 rebounds. But what put Baylor over the top were big games from some unexpected sources. Baylor big Sune Agbuke killed Iowa with 23 points (on 9/17 shooting) and 12 rebounds, while backup guard Kristy Wallace killed Iowa with red-hot shooting from the perimeter, scoring 17 points on 7/8 shooting (2/2 from deep). Agbuke in particular did a lot of damage to Iowa during the game-clinching run to open the second half -- Iowa simply had no answer for her size or shooting touch.
Doolittle continued her strong run of play to end the season, leading Iowa with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Her absence in the first half contributed mightily to the hole Iowa found themselves in early and her return at the end of the half was the biggest reason Iowa was able to get back into the game. Unfortunately, the game ended on a sour note for her; she took a big elbow from Agbuke square in the face and suffered a broken nose that forced her to leave the game. That was a sad way for a great tournament run, a great season, and a great career to end.
Whitney Jennings started strong for Iowa, making her first two shots and getting Iowa on the board at the start of the game. She went just 1/6 after that, though, and ended with 8 points and 4 rebounds. Her shooting woes were mirrored by Iowa's two leading scorers this season, Melissa Dixon and Ally Disterhoft. Dixon went 4/14 (2/10) for 10 points, while Disterhoft went 1/8 (including 0/6 on 2-point shots) for 3 points. When your two best scorers go 5/22, well, you're not going to win many games.
Finally, Sam Logic ended her Iowa career in incredibly fitting fashion: with a triple double. She had 13 points (albeit on 6/15 shooting), 14 assists (against just one turnover), and 10 rebounds. Logic's all-around brilliance has been her calling card for her entire Iowa career, so it feels right that she ended that same career with one last example of good she was at, well, everything. She was an outstanding passer, a tenacious rebounder, and an increasingly good scorer as her career progressed. Thanks for giving us one last showcase of all your skills last night, Sam.
A blowout loss was a sad way to end the season for Iowa, but it was still a very good season for the Hawkeyes. They went 26-8, finished second in the Big Ten, produced a slew of memorable wins, and and played an increidbly entertaining brand of basketball. And, of course, they finally broke through and made it to the Sweet 16 -- an achievement that had been a long time coming. This year's run was keyed by a fantastic senior class -- Logic, Doolittle, Dixon and the less-prolific but important Kathryn Reynolds -- and they'll be deeply missed next year. But Iowa has a strong group of underclassmen (led by Disterhoft and Jennings, who won't often play as poorly as they did last night) and a good recruiting class coming in. The future is bright -- and hopefully it includes more trips to the Sweet 16 and, who knows, maybe even beyond that.