Iowa women's basketball: Hawkeyes rout No. 12 Michigan after COVID-19 delay

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The top headline out of Thursday's Iowa-Michigan matchup was always going to be the five-hour COVID-related delay before tipoff. That is, unless either team did something extraordinary.  

Well, the Hawkeyes did. 

Iowa's best all-around performance of the season was more than worth the wait, as the Hawkeyes used a 3-point barrage to finally conquer the ranked beast that's plagued them all year. The productive formula generated an 89-67 victory over No. 12 Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It was a signature win the Hawkeyes desperately needed. 

"I'm so amazed with their mental maturity in what they showed today," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.

Iowa guard Kate Martin, left, reacts after making a basket at the end of the first half as Michigan's Leeigha Brown (32) looks on during a NCAA Big Ten Conference women's basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

There was no telling what kind of basketball would unfold given the day's circumstances. Iowa (13-7, 9-7 Big Ten Conference) initially came out for warmups about 45 minutes prior to the originally scheduled 3:30 p.m. tip before cutting things short and retreating to the locker room. Michigan (13-3, 8-3) never came out for warmups. As afternoon morphed into evening with chatter of a delay or postponement swirling, an 8:30 p.m. start time was finally announced.  

Bluder later confirmed it was forward Logan Cook who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. 

"We had went through the rapid antigen testing with all of our players, as we're supposed to according to Big Ten protocol," Bluder explained. "Everybody came back negative in our entire travel party. Michigan asked that we all (take) PCR (tests, which are more accurate) before they would play the game.

"So we ended up doing it. We were set to play at 3:30 p.m., but we all ran over (to our testing site at the University of Iowa Recreation Building) and got our PCR tests. All of them came back negative. So we were just following Big Ten protocol the entire time. Really it came down to Michigan making a request of us, and we followed through with the request."

All Iowa needed to pounce was a confirmed tip. 

After draining 17 treys in Monday's 111-93 loss at Maryland, the Hawkeyes picked up right where they left off in constructing a 15-point, first-quarter lead. That cushion ballooned to 23 before Michigan made its first push — an 11-0 run to climb back in. Could Iowa stabilize things in time to avoid wasting its first-half rout? 

Yes. Quite nicely, actually. 

The Hawkeyes scored nine of the second quarter's final 11 points — punctuated by two Kate Martin treys — the second of which beat the first-half horn by a tenth of a second.

A 49-30 halftime advantage seemed sturdy enough. A 14-5 Iowa run to start the third quarter — buoyed by four treys from three different Hawkeyes .— eliminated any scoreboard drama. The only suspense left was how high up this performance would finish in the Iowa record books. 

Iowa toyed with setting the program and Carver-Hawkeye Arena records (men's or women's) for 3-pointers in a game, both of which are 19. The Hawkeyes had to settle for a 16-for-27 outing — but the distribution itself was enough to make Bluder smile. 

Six Hawkeyes connected from deep, spearheaded again by an emphatic Caitlin Clark stat line (27 points on 7-for-12 3-point shooting). Martin added another to her end-of-half flurry for 15 points on three treys. McKenna Warnock, Megan Meyer, Gabbie Marshall and Tomi Taiwo got in on the fun as well.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) takes the ball up court as Michigan guard Michelle Sidor (24) defends during a NCAA Big Ten Conference women's basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

The defensive end featured just as many fireworks. Big Ten player of the year candidate Naz Hillmon looked dominant in the box score (24 points on 8-for-13 shooting), but freshman Sharon Goodman and junior Monika Czinano prevented her from taking over. After Hillmon, no other Wolverine could provide consistent assistance.     

"We just tried to stay mentally focused, not get tired (during the delay)," Clark said. "We just tried to stay energized and ready to go, and I think when we came back to Carver and it was a full-go, everybody was dialed in. We had read over our scouting reports, and I thought we had a different energy about us, for sure."  

While the marathon day made it difficult to contextualize this performance beyond Thursday's vacuum, this was a pivotal win for Iowa. The Hawkeyes hadn't had a Quadrant 1 victory since New Year's Eve against Rutgers, and opportunities for another were dwindling as the season closes.

Although Iowa wasn't really near the NCAA Tournament bubble, this outing gave the Hawkeyes a quality bullet point on a postseason resume that previously, best featured zero bad losses. Shutting down a potent Michigan team should give Iowa a jolt of confidence with the postseason looming. 

“We just wanted to play,” Goodman said. “It was like a competition in energy.”

Even if the Hawkeyes had to wait a little longer to celebrate.

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.