Iowa women's basketball: Everyone pitches in as No. 21 Hawkeyes breeze by Penn State
IOWA CITY, Ia. — It wasn’t really a matter of if, but when this affair would get out of hand. Once the first few minutes passed without any unexpected drama, the team barreling toward the NCAA Tournament put its foot down against the one stuck in the conference cellar.
No. 21 Iowa toyed with Penn State for a bit, then put the Nittany Lions out of their misery with a forceful second-quarter surge. The Hawkeyes' 100-57 victory extended their Carver-Hawkeye Arena winning streak to 35 games.
"I think we're really building one of the best women's basketball atmospheres in the country," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "Just so thankful for our fans who come out. I'm thankful for the style of play these guys have. That was a fun game."
You could squint to see some reasons why Iowa (22-5, 13-3 Big Ten Conference) could’ve come out flat against an inferior foe — but another nice crowd paired with Penn State’s general sputters eliminated any issues. The Hawkeyes were off and running with a solid first quarter. A 19-5 sprint to the locker room saw Iowa hold the Nittany Lions (7-20, 1-15) to one field goal over the final six minutes.
Saturday’s offensive theme was spreading the wealth. Iowa had five players with five-plus points within the first quarter and change, leading to four double-digit scorers.
The usual contributors did their thing — 18 points from Kathleen Doyle, another 23 from Monika Czinano and 10 apiece via Makenzie Meyer and McKenna Warnock — but so did role players.
Bluder extended the bench early for the likes of Kate Martin, Tomi Taiwo, Zion Sanders, Gabbie Marshall and others without sacrificing productive minutes.
"I've learned so much this year," Marshall said, "just from the seniors and how encouraging they are. It's nice to watch from some of the best in the Big Ten. It makes it that much easier. I've just been trying to do my role and do whatever I can when I'm on the court, whether that's on offense or defense."
In the larger picture, there wasn’t much Iowa could gain from this one. Other than further cementing their late-season focus, the Hawkeyes were expected to roll in convincing fashion against this overmatched opponent. Penn State was buried from the opening tip.
Saturday was one of the last few times to see seniors Amanda Ollinger, Doyle and Meyer, whose careers are on their final leg with a few weeks remaining. Next Thursday versus Minnesota is their last guaranteed home game, although Iowa hopes to add a couple more come March.
The Hawkeyes’ hosting resumé remains rock solid after Saturday’s demolition.
"We got a couple days off this week, and I think that was really good for them. They're fresh mentally, physically for the most part," Bluder said. "Like everyone else, we're a little banged up this time of year, but we don't have any severe things.
"So I feel like we're ready for this. I really do. I think this team is prepared and ready to have a good run."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.