IOWA CITY, Ia. — It can never be that bad when you let 13 players see the floor, win by 20 and have four score double figures. But despite a 78-58 win against Illinois, Iowa’s game Wednesday was somewhat of a mixed bag.
There were moments of promise, glimpses of a top-five Big Ten team worthy of an NCAA Tournament ticket. Those were interspersed with rough edges, cold shooting streaks and stretches of slow basketball when leads got "comfortable."
Ultimately, the Hawkeyes never trailed and won because, as has been the case all season, their good basketball well outweighed the bad inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"Well, that was a lot better," coach Lisa Bluder said as she opened her stats book postgame. "I thought we came out and took control of the game right from the start. I thought our first quarter and fourth quarter were outstanding, but I really liked our start in this game. I thought our offensive and defensive intensity were great, both ends."
Some of the good: Iowa out-rebounded Illinois 45-29 and limited the Illini to six offensive boards and eight second-chance points, as well as just six assists.
Some of the bad: Iowa's 7 of 22 mark from 3-point land still isn't where it needs to be.
The good: Makenzie Meyer’s 3 capped a stretch of 11-for-14 shooting to start the game, when Iowa took a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter.
The bad: It followed that with 3-for-17 shooting the rest of the first half to allow the Illini back into the game.
The good: Iowa had rapid ball movement against the zone defense in the first half. Open mid-range baseline jumpers for Kathleen Doyle, lots of paint touches for Megan Gustafson and only 11 3-point attempts.
The bad: Stagnant, stale offense in the third quarter. Too many perimeter passes with seven 3-point attempts and just one make, allowing Illinois to outscore Iowa 18-14 and enter the final frame down 11 after trailing by 18 in the second.
More good (they did win, after all): The Hawkeyes controlled the Illini in the fourth, when they outscored them 25-16; Doyle scored a career-high 18 points; and Gustafson notched her ninth double-double with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
So no matter how many bumps Iowa had Wednesday, this game was nothing like its Big Ten-opening, 70-65 loss in Champaign on Dec. 28.
The Hawkeyes shot 38 percent and committed 23 turnovers in the loss — 46 percent and 16 turnovers in the win.
Tania Davis missed all six of her shots for a goose egg, and Ally Disterhoft scored 11 on 4-for-13 shooting in the loss.
Wednesday? The two combined for 27 points on 7-for-16 shooting.
"Maybe that sting of the loss was still there just a little bit more," Bluder said. "Maybe that was still in the back of our minds a little bit more because it was more fresh."
"I think the theme of the day was definitely redemption," Gustafson added. "We definitely worked as hard as we could to earn that. We beat them more here than they beat us there, so that’s going to be really crucial toward the end of the season when they decide standings."
Maybe the most important difference: 28 3-point attempts in December — 22 on Wednesday. A small decrease, but a decrease nonetheless.
"That was one of our main things. We felt like we took too many 3s the first time that we played them, and we did not get enough paint touches," Bluder said. "And so we really worked the last four days on getting those paint touches. And not only getting the ball to Megan, but also through penetration we’re driving the gaps or hitting people who run through the gaps."
Meyer started for the first time since South Dakota State visited Carver Nov. 20. She scored 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting from long range. Christina Buttenham, whose place she took in the lineup, grabbed three rebounds off the bench.
Disterhoft had her right wrist and thumb wrapped during the game. She said she tweaked the wrist in practice and the wrap was precautionary. Disterhoft had surgery on her right wrist after her sophomore year.
Iowa improves to 11-6 and 2-2 in the Big Ten, which ties it for sixth with Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern. It hosts No. 3 Maryland this Saturday at 3 p.m.
Bain covers Hawkeyes' basketball for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.