By Sean Bock
No matter the circumstances, the Iowa women’s basketball team seems to find a way to get the job done.
On Dec. 28, the Hawkeyes traveled to Madison for their Big Ten opener and came away with a 56-46 win over Wisconsin.
In addition to the absence of junior guard Tania Davis (out for the season with a torn ACL), the squad announced shortly before the game that another starting guard, sophomore Makenzie Meyer, had suffered a fracture in her left hand and would be evaluated in two weeks.
Davis’ injury had left a huge void in the Iowa backcourt, and Meyer’s sidelining takes a major toll on the Hawkeyes’ depth. The team is now down to nine players, only three of whom are guards.
In place of the two guards, junior forward Amanda Ollinger made her first start at the college level and grabbed 8 rebounds in the winning effort.
“It’s our first game playing with Amanda in the starting lineup and with Carly [Mohns] playing in the perimeter position,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said in a release. “Considering all those things and then going on the road, I’m really proud of our team. We came out of here, got a road win, and start the Big Ten play 1-0 without Makenzie or Tania.”
Megan Gustafson was the star for Iowa, finishing with 21 points and 16 rebounds (13th double-double this season, the nation’s best mark) while converting on all 11 of her attempts from the free-throw line.
Gustafson’s fellow starter in the frontcourt, Chase Coley, had 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots for the Hawkeyes.
Unlike most of its games this season, Iowa’s main struggle in Madison was the offense.
The Hawkeyes were held to season-low 56 points and shot an abysmal 37 percent from the field, 28 percent from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 21 times.
A positive statistic was free throws; Iowa finished 14-of-15 (93 percent) from the charity stripe.
“When I’m not able to make my [field goals], to be able to finish at the free-throw line is important,” Gustafson said in the release.
With the win, Iowa improved to 13-1 on the season, 1-0 in the Big Ten.
Conference road victories won’t be easy to come by this season, especially against such teams as Rutgers and Maryland. That said, it’s vital the Hawkeyes secure road wins over lower-level conference opponents.
“If you want a chance in the top half of the Big Ten, you have to protect your home court, that is essential,” Bluder said in the release. “Then, you have to pick up a few of these road wins here and there, and they are so hard to come by. You forget how hard they are to come by. We’re going to enjoy this one.”
The No. 23 Hawkeyes will return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Dec. 31 in a Big Ten battle with No. 21 Michigan. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.