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Iowa women's basketball: No. 21 Hawkeyes pull away from Ohio State to extend home winning streak

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa coach Lisa Bluder issued the warning early in her press conference Wednesday afternoon, saying Ohio State featured more firepower that its pedestrian record indicated. Then the words came to life Thursday evening.

Facing daunting foes is nothing new to the Buckeyes, who battled three top-5 foes and another three ranked Big Ten teams before their trip to No. 21 Iowa.

Iowa, though, wasn’t letting this one get away.

It wasn’t like the eye-popping double-digit road rallies of last week, but the Hawkeyes needed a sterling fourth quarter to survive, 77-68, inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle, center, gets helped up by teammates Gabbie Marshall and Amanda Ollinger during a NCAA Big Ten Conference women's basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

There haven’t been many close calls during what’s now a 31-game home winning streak, yet here was Iowa locked in a tight affair against the Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes (16-3, 7-1 Big Ten Conference) needed every contribution to emerge victoriously.

"We've played in tough games consistently through this Big Ten season, and we know we're going to have to play well for 40 minutes," said Kathleen Doyle, who combined with fellow senior Makenzie Meyer for Iowa's final 15 points. "We've just got to keep grinding it out and lock in every possession. We've been doing a good job of that down the stretch in games."

Stuck in a 56-56 deadlock with 6:09 remaining, Iowa grabbed control at a familiar point. An 8-2 run ensued over the next three-plus minutes, featuring Doyle’s aggressiveness and key points from Amanda Ollinger and McKenna Warnock.

Sporadic late treys kept Ohio State (11-8, 4-4) within reach until Doyle and Meyer pushed Iowa to the finish line. Doyle finished her 26-point night with four free throws, a game-sealing and-1 and an emphatic flex. Meyer (19 points) also hit four late free throws to squash any upset vibes.

"It builds our confidence a lot," said Meyer, whose left shoulder briefly popped out and back in place late in the fourth. "We're fortunate to have had some close games here lately, and that's really going to help us later in the season when it comes tournament time.

"We don't want to look ahead too far, but it's really good to build confidence right now and play close games right now."

Ohio State led for almost the entire second quarter and much of the third, but it could never push Iowa away by more than seven points.

Iowa took its first second-half lead on Meyer’s trey with 3:19 left in the third. Fitting, considering it was Meyer who raved this week about the late-game aura inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Ohio State shuddered frigidly after a promising start from deep. The Buckeyes drained eight treys in the first half, then threw up a 1-for-15 second-half showing. Twenty-two points from Dorka Juhasz and another 16 from Janai Crooms couldn't prevent the Hawkeyes' hard-charging finale.

"This was a really good win against a very, very talented Ohio State team," Bluder said. "A big team, athletic team and so I'm really thrilled with this victory.

"... And then we just had a little bit of Kathleen Doyle. Again, she just kind of wills our team to win. Man, when she's going to the hoop with the ball, I have complete faith and trust in her."

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.