Iowa women's basketball: Hawkeyes falter in second half at No. 23 Northwestern

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

No matter how hot a team is, racking up conference road wins is always a daunting challenge. Iowa was reminded of that Saturday night at Northwestern.

The No. 23 Wildcats grabbed control of a back-and-forth affair with a late third-quarter run, then shut off the Hawkeyes' attempted rally with a solid finishing stretch. Iowa exited Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 77-67 loss to snap a four-game winning streak.

In its first Big Ten Network appearance this season, Iowa (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten Conference) was right with the Wildcats (6-2, 4-2) through a half and change — only to see Northwestern rip off a 9-0 surge to end the third quarter and grab a 62-50 advantage. The Hawkeyes countered with five straight to begin the final period, but the Wildcats never really let Iowa back in from there. The Hawkeyes' deficit stayed at double figures for almost all of the last three minutes.

After Iowa's opening fourth-quarter flurry, the Hawkeyes had only six points over the next six minutes. Overall, this was by far Iowa's worst offensive output of the season, well below the 92 points per game that ranked top-5 nationally coming in.     

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder calls out to players during a NCAA non-conference women's basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Freshman standout Caitlin Clark mustered just eight points on 3-for-12 shooting and 1-for-5 from deep, a microcosm of Iowa's outside struggles on this evening. The Hawkeyes finished 5-for-19 from beyond the arc and didn't get much outside of Monika Czinano's 28 points. The junior center had nearly half of the Hawkeyes' field goals (13 of 28).

Iowa finished with a 38-30 rebounding edge, including 12 from Czinano and 17 via McKenna Warnock, and also racked up more assists than Northwestern (28-20). But 18 Iowa turnovers, and 28 Wildcat points off them, offset any statistical victories. The Hawkeyes' offense simply wasn't sharp enough to counter Northwestern's attack.

Jordan Hamilton led the Wildcats with 19 points and got double-digit assistance from Veronica Burton (18 points) and Sydney Wood (17 points). A clean effort — only eight turnovers — plus a strong downtown showing (7-for-15) propelled Northwestern to one of its best wins this year. 

We'll see how Iowa responds to its first real bout of adversity this season, after struggling in all the areas that had the Hawkeyes rolling through the season's first six weeks. Iowa will look to regroup Wednesday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena against No. 16 Ohio State.

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.