IOWA CITY, Ia. — In Iowa’s ideal world, Thursday evening’s game would’ve unfolded drama-free — another Carver-Hawkeye Arena blowout that seamlessly transitioned into the senior-night ceremony.
Iowa eventually got there, but not before pesky Minnesota gave its best effort in ruining the Hawkeyes’ home prestige on numerous fronts. No. 20 Iowa had to finish with a strong fourth quarter, emerging with a 90-82 victory to extend its home winning streak to 36. That's now two straight regular seasons without a home defeat.
"That's an amazing accomplishment," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said, "and we wanted to do that. Obviously, we want to win every game we play, but we also want to make our home fans proud of our performance."
Still, this isn’t the first time Minnesota — which sits 11th in the Big Ten Conference — has punched above its weight class at Iowa’s expense. The Hawkeyes (23-5, 14-3 Big Ten) led for all of eight seconds when they met in Minneapolis on Jan. 16. Iowa was lucky to leave with a 76-75 backdoor escape.
Thursday night didn’t follow the same blueprint, yet there the Gophers (15-13, 5-12) were, hanging around longer than most Carver-Hawkeye Arena visitors do. Iowa’s lead, which had been as large as 15 in the third quarter, stood at three with three minutes remaining. A different team in a different venue may have wilted under the mounting pressure.
Not this group, on this night.
Monika Czinano responded with four easy points, sandwiched around a Minnesota shot clock violation and an Alexis Sevillian layup. An 80-77 advantage suddenly had a bit of cushion at 86-79 with 1:11 remaining. A few defensive stops and solid free-throw work was enough to squash an upset attempt.
"That's the Big Ten for you," senior Kathleen Doyle said. "Everyone is going to scratch and claw for 40 minutes, and you have to be on your A game at all times. When we weren't on our A games, they were capitalizing on it and coming back and making runs.
"That's kind of how it goes, and we just have to stay together as a team and withstand those runs, which we did a good job of."
Czinano and senior Makenzie Meyer each poured in 24 points to lead the Hawkeyes. Czinano went 12-for-16 and added six rebounds. Meyer splashed six treys on nine attempts. Those two picked up the slack for Doyle, who shot 3-for-11 amid reaching 1,500 career points. McKenna Warnock and Sevillian each added 11.
It seemed Iowa had order restored in the third quarter after Minnesota briefly took a 47-46 lead shortly after halftime. Doyle, Warnock, Czinano and Meyer buoyed the scoring charge, while Iowa’s defense limited Minnesota to four field goals over the quarter’s final eight minutes. An 11-point lead entering the final period appeared to be enough.
And it was, to an extent. The Gophers never took the lead late, but a handful of fourth-quarter treys kept it close.
Ultimately, though, the night ended the way Iowa wanted it to — even if it took longer than anticipated.
"This is a game I'll definitely always remember," Meyer said. "Just a great way to go out my senior year in front of so many amazing fans."
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.