By Jordan Zuniga
The Iowa women’s basketball team, seeking to avoid its first losing streak of the season, responded with a 84-71 victory over Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, on Jan. 7.
The game came on the heels of Iowa’s second loss of the season (at Maryland) in which the Hawkeyes committed 23 turnovers and jacked up 24 3-point attempts, hitting only 7.
The stat sheet against the Illini demonstrated the Hawkeyes’ effort to wipe away the previous woes — they limited their turnovers to 7 and took only 12 3s, hitting 6.
“After the Maryland game, we told them our turnovers were too high and our assists were too low,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “What did we do? We came out and had a season-low 7 turnovers and 24 assists.”
More proof of improvement came from the Hawkeyes’ inside game.
After the Maryland game, Bluder noted that the posts were not getting enough touches, and the Hawkeyes took that to heart against Illinois.
Iowa’s prime post player, Megan Gustafson, was the beneficiary of Iowa’s focus on the inside attack. Her shot numbers doubled from the Maryland game, and she stuck the ball in the hoop to the tune of 34 points against Illinois.
Gustafson also picked up her NCAA-leading 16th double-double with 12 rebounds, and she rounded out her stat-line with 3 assists and 2 blocks.
What made Gustafson’s night more impressive was the consistent double- and triple-teams that tried to stop her.
“I try to relax before every game and know I can handle everything,” Gustafson said. “The coaches have prepared me extremely well in practices — I go against double-teams every day.”
A big game for Gustafson isn’t unique. What is unique is how concentrated the point spread was.
Just five Hawkeyes scored, and three of them finished in double figures.
Lexi Sevillian was the Iowa’s second-highest scorer with 21; she was the leading Hawkeye sharpshooter, nailing 5-of-8 from deep. Guard Kathleen Doyle knocked down the other 3 (1-of-4).
With 15 points and 10 assists, Doyle continued her solid play, and her turnover number — 0 — garnered Bluder’s praise in particular.
“Doyle continues to lead us so well,” Bluder said. “She had 10 assists and zero turnovers. I love that Lexi came back and had a great game after struggling at Maryland. She has a career-high with five 3s and 21 points.”
The win over Illinois puts Iowa at 3-1 in the Big Ten (15-2 overall), and the record alone is impressive — throw in losing two starters to begin conference play only adds to the luster.
“I’m proud of our team,” Bluder said. “We are 3-1 in the Big Ten; three of the games have been on the road, two of them have been against top-20 teams. I don’t know if we could ask for much more out of our team with what we have been through and with how they have responded.”
The Hawkeyes will enjoy the home front for the first time in the new year, taking on Purdue at 3 p.m. Jan. 13 in Carver-Hawkeye.