Iowa women's basketball: Makenzie Meyer looks for shooting resurgence as Hawkeyes hit the road

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Throughout the peaks and valleys of a long season, a shooter’s life can be a maddening mental tug-of-war. Everything splashes during one extended stretch. Then, without warning, comes a roadblock full of bricks and clanks.

Makenzie Meyer knows the battle.

After a scorching start from downtown to start the year, Iowa’s junior guard has sputtered over the last month and change. Shooters know lulls are going to arrive eventually, but preparing for them doesn’t get any easier.

“Just from experience,” she said, “I know when those dark thoughts start creeping into my head, I have to push them aside. It’s a waste of energy to be thinking about those kinds of things.”

Iowa guard Makenzie Meyer (3) dribbles during a women's NCAA basketball game on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Monday, perhaps, was a catalyst in getting Meyer back on track. Her 10 points and two treys in Iowa’s 71-53 win over Wisconsin may not seem like much, but both figures were welcomed given how her recent stretch has unfolded.

The No. 17 Hawkeyes (11-3, 2-1 Big Ten Conference) could use more Meyer connections come Thursday, when they travel to Purdue (11-5, 2-1) for a 7 p.m. BTN showdown.

“You see people get on rolls and their confidence just soars and they believe everything is going in and that’s why it does go in,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said Wednesday. “I think shooting is so mental. When they’re doubting themselves, they’re thinking —‘well, that’s probably not going in’ — and that’s probably what happens.

“So it’s the mental side of things, and most times, shooters just need to get themselves back in the gym and feel that rhythm again, feel that confidence and hear the net snap when it goes through.”

There were plenty of swishes early, as Meyer kicked off her junior season 15-for-35 from deep through Iowa’s first five games. Double figures were regular occurrences, along with smiles, confidence and jubilation.

Then came the wall.

Entering Monday, Meyer had made only four of her last 24 3-point attempts — a stretch that spanned six games dating back to Dec. 5. Only one time during that period did Meyer score in double digits.

The Hawkeyes still went 5-1 as Meyer struggled, a byproduct of a veteran team with enough backcourt pieces to slide in and pick up the slack. But it’s clear how much more dangerous Iowa is when Meyer’s firing.

“I know our confidence with Makenzie is never going to waver,” senior guard Tania Davis said. “We feel like she’s the best shooting guard in the Big Ten — in the country, at that. We feel like every shot that she shoots is going to go in.”

Shooters like Davis, Kathleen Doyle and Alexis Sevillian know the pain when the work and dedication doesn’t match the on-court production. It’s a frustrating dilemma that can derail confidence in a hurry.

That's where cohesiveness enters.  

“Every time I get a pass, Kathleen or Tania or (Alexis) is yelling, ‘Knock it down, it’s going in,’” Meyer said. They’ll sometimes pass me the ball and start running back on defense because they know it’s going in. I know my teammates and coaches are extremely confident in me. They tell me that every day.  

“Every time you catch the ball, you want to tell yourself the next shot is going in or there’s not a good chance the ball is going to go in the hoop. It’s a really long season — and you’re going to go through slumps and hot streaks.”

Shooters shoot — and that’s all Meyer can do. Things tend to come back around for those who can handle the mental grind.   

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.