No. 6 Iowa women's basketball fights off Drake's upset bid with overtime road win
DES MOINES — After a year off from this always-entertaining in-state matchup that oozes familiarity, intensity and intrigue, Drake and No. 6 Iowa delivered a worthy women’s basketball show Sunday afternoon.
Two charged fan bases with dueling chants deep into the afternoon created a riveting environment that did the sport proud. Although the points came tougher than they usually do, the Des Moines drama was there all the same.
Iowa, with its veteran core and tight-game experience, finally emerged victorious in a tough overtime battle.
Despite a disjointed final possession in regulation, the Hawkeyes regrouped, buckled down defensively and owned the extra period en route to a 92-86 win at the Knapp Center. Iowa (3-0) has now won 19 of the last 20 in the series. Sunday’s victory was one of the hardest to obtain.
“That game really builds our mental resolve early in the season,” said Iowa center Monika Czinano, who finished with a game-high 36 points on 14-for-21 shooting. “Our non-conference is really good. We’re playing good teams every single night, and Drake is no exception. So getting a win here — having to go to overtime, having that mental resolve and quite honestly, just getting our conditioning better — is good for us and will be big down the stretch.”
It became clear quickly that Drake (1-1) wasn’t intimidated by the moment. The single-digit ranking next to Iowa’s name, the hundreds of Hawkeyes fans spread throughout the upper deck — none of it was going to derail the Bulldogs’ focus in their own building. And after Gabbie Marshall missed a potential game-winner that forced another five minutes, this eventful afternoon was firmly up for grabs.
Somewhat ironically given how the first half — which Drake controlled — unfolded, it was Iowa’s late defense that snatched momentum for good. The Bulldogs didn’t score in overtime until 1:44 left and didn’t hit an OT field goal until a late trey that simply kept Drake breathing with 26 seconds left.
Marshall kicked off the extra session with a crucial steal after a Caitlin Clark layup, which Iowa converted into a Czinano bucket that handed the Hawkeyes an 86-82 advantage. Even with some spotty free-throw shooting late, that was enough cushion to hold off what would’ve likely been an emphatic court storming.
“Gabbie’s steal was the biggest play (in overtime),” said Clark, who finished with 28 points despite needing 28 shots to get there. “I drive in, make a layup Gabbie kind of picks them off when they weren’t looking. We get another possession, and then Monika scores.
“We had four points within the first three possessions of overtime, and that allowed us to settle into our defense a little bit. We really bought in and made them take some tough shots, and that’s all you can ask.”
All Drake could ask for was a tight game late, a chance to let the Knapp Center environment take over and ignite a riveting upset. Katie Dinnebier led the offensive charge with a career-high 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting, punctuated by a nifty shake-and-bake layup that brought things even, 82-82, with 23.9 seconds left in regulation
The former Waukee standout was one of five Bulldogs to finish in double figures, which included former Iowa guard Megan Meyer and her 11 points. A downtown attempt with 18 seconds to go in regulation would’ve brought the Bulldogs even in eye-opening fashion, but Meyer’s trey clanked short before Iowa hopped on the defensive rebound.
That close to a magical moment.
“This close game can propel us so much going forward this season,” Meyer said. “We have a really tough non-conference schedule. It would’ve been really fun to come out on top, but having all that confidence and knowing it can spring us forward is huge.”
The Bulldogs’ offensive effort to start was initially just as huge. Drake repeatedly burned the Hawkeyes’ interior defense with back-door cuts and easy layups, growing its advantage to as big as nine with 4:13 until the break. Even with Clark and Czinano combining for 34 of the Hawkeyes’ 41 points in the first half, Drake matched every big bucket and didn’t let the game slip away early. That went a long way in keeping the crowd as an engaged weapon.
When winning time arrived, though, the Hawkeyes showcased why expectations are so lofty. Iowa isn’t in a position where it needs to learn a lot about the weapons it has, but every year is a new season even when the same faces return. Obtaining a solid road win amid hostility this early in the campaign has the potential for massive benefits.
These in-state matchups never seem to disappoint. Sunday was more of the same.
“This was like an NCAA Tournament environment,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "To come in here and win on the road, I’m extremely happy with that.”
Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.