By Michael McCurdy
So far this season, the Iowa women’s basketball team has protected Carver-Hawkeye in conference play; witness the 4-1 record heading into Thursday’s game.
With a balanced effort, the Hawkeyes improved that home record to 5-1 by beating Northwestern, 78-59.
“I thought we had some great production off the bench tonight,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Hannah Stewart came in and did a great job. Amanda Ollinger got 6 rebounds in her minutes. So we just had contributions from so many different people tonight.”
The Hawkeyes had eight players with more than 10 minutes of action, a record for the team in conference play.
With freshman Bre Cera and junior Christina Buttenham out because of concussions, Iowa was forced to rely on what was thought to be a depleted bench.
Freshman Ollinger logged 11 crucial minutes for the Hawkeyes; she drilled a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to put the Hawkeyes up by 15. Sophomore Stewart tallied 7 points in 12 minutes, another Hawkeye off the bench who made the most of her minutes.
With Cera out of the game, Bluder decided to start junior Chase Coley in her place because of her recent play and experience in the starting lineup from last season. Coley did not disappoint her, making a case for being a starter for the rest of the season by almost achieving a double-double with 9 points and 11 rebounds.
“Bre Cera and Christina Buttenham are great rebounders, and with them out, I tried to go out there and fill that spot,” Coley said.
Not only has Coley been impressive since sophomore Tania Davis left with an ACL tear, but senior Alexa Kastanek has also found her role on the team, filling a sharpshooter void the Hawkeyes were missing without Davis. She finished with 8 points in 18 minutes.
“I’ve always played, even my freshman year, to be whatever the team needs me to be,” Kastanek said. “Knowing that these might be some of the last games I’m going to play ever, just taking that and really using it to my advantage to go out and have fun while also making sure my team is having fun.”
In addition to the balanced effort, Iowa’s ability to control the glass helped maintain its lead and limit any second-chance points for the Wildcats.
Iowa led the rebounding margin at the half, 29-14, which was vital for the Hawkeyes because the Wildcats missed a lot of inside shots during the first 20 minutes.
Star forward Nia Coffey struggled in the first half to get anything going. It wasn’t necessarily what the Hawkeyes were doing to affect her game, but more she was going through a dry spell.
In the third quarter she figured it out, going 5- of- 7 from the floor with 13 points. The Hawkeyes were resilient, though, and they went on a 15-2 run in response to Northwestern’s run to put the game away.
With the win, Iowa is now tied with Purdue for sixth in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes will have their chance to move ahead of the Boilermakers in the standings on Feb. 19, when they travel to West Lafayette.