IOWA CITY – With little recent action from either side, predicting how Thursday’s Iowa-Northwestern clash would turn out has become a more difficult task than usual.
This corresponds to the 40 roller coaster minutes that took place at the Carver-Hawkeye arena.
A game Iowa seemed to control throughout the first half and sometimes missed in the fourth quarter ended with a lot of tense basketball in the waning moments. The chance for a productive Big Ten reset was within reach for Iowa. But the No.21 Hawkeyes couldn’t muster enough during the win time, resulting in a 77-69 loss to Northwestern which once again saw Iowa spit offensively.
“It’s obviously a tough loss,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. “You’re on your home turf in the Big Ten and playing against a kind of younger team. We just didn’t perform well in the second half.”
The Wildcats (10-3, 2-0 Big Ten Conference) entered without action on Thursday since Dec. 17. Iowa (7-4, 1-1) had only played once in the past two weeks. Both teams knew the addition of this quality win would do wonders in the midst of this choppy streak.
Despite the final loss of the lead in the middle of the third quarter, the Hawkeyes had chances to regain control at the end of the last quarter. A 7-0 run in Iowa tied the Hawkeyes, 66-66, with 2:54 to go, preparing for a compelling home finish. But he never came. Iowa didn’t touch another basket until Caitlin Clark and 1 layup with 17 seconds left. The Wildcats meanwhile delivered a methodical 10-0 run.
Much too late for a rally.
The Hawkeyes started this week confident that they had an answer for the notorious Northwestern Showdown, better known as the Blizzard. The Iowa stars got theirs – 30 points from Clark, 20 more from Monika Czinano – but Northwestern’s defense hung on to the end. Iowa had just five field goals and got just three points from Clark in the fourth quarter.
Equally concerning are the Hawkeyes’ continued 3-point woes. Iowa finished 6 for 26 from downtown, scoring the 10th time in 11 games. Iowa failed to hit double-digit levels. The deep threat that has existed throughout Bluder ‘s tenure in Iowa has yet to manifest itself this season.
âIt’s frustrating,â Bluder said. âI really thought we wouldn’t mind stepping back the 3 point line this year. I really didn’t think it was going to bother us at all. But it seems to have bothered us. The ball as well as we are able to shoot it. The only thing you can do is keep working on it in training and build your confidence in the gym. ”
It looked like tonight could go Iowa’s way with the return of Czinano and McKenna Warnock, who missed Evansville’s victory on Sunday while on COVID protocols and were questionable for Thursday. Both came back with solid outings. Czinano added six rebounds and two assists to his 20 points on an 8-for-14 shot, while Warnock added 14 points with four treys.
Elsewhere, however, it was difficult to find a consistent attack, particularly damaging with Veronica Burton (25 points) and Melannie Daley (22) connecting at the other end. Perhaps this is of most concern during this Hawkeye lull. Iowa’s offensive attack just doesn’t look as powerful as one might expect.
Iowa will look to recover in Nebraska on Sunday.
âIt’s really something that we’ve been missing this season, just a general sense of consistency,â Czinano said. “But we’re not the only team in the country to go through this. We’ll just have to rise above it.”
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preparations for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.