Iowa women's basketball: Hawkeyes roll past Rutgers into Big Ten Tournament semifinals

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

If only Lisa Bluder could get Thursday's performance every night from her Iowa squad. 

Timely treys, stifling defense, breakout performances. The Hawkeyes' quarterfinal showing at the Big Ten Tournament couldn't get much better. 

Gabbie Marshall's career-high scoring night was the lead Iowa headline in a game full of them. The No. 6 seed Hawkeyes overwhelmed third-seeded Rutgers from the jump en route to a 73-62 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. With the win, Iowa advanced to Friday's semifinal against No. 7 seed Michigan State — which also pulled a quarterfinal upset over No. 2 seed Indiana. 

“Gabbie had some good looks,” Bluder said. “And whenever you give her good looks, she’s money. She’s shot the ball well for us all year. But yeah, this was at a little bit different level today. She had great looks, and her teammates found her. And that’s what you want. When somebody has the hot hand, you hunt for them.”

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Gabbie Marshall (24) makes a basket in front of Rutgers Scarlet Knights forward Tyia Singleton (22) during the quarterfinals of the 2021 Big Ten Tournament  Thursday, March 11, 2021 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

After a clunky postseason opener, Iowa showed early it had more to offer in Indianapolis. It was relentless defense and plenty of Marshall out of the gates, as the sharpshooting guard outscored Rutgers in the first quarter by herself.

Marshall finished with 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting, including 7-for-11 from deep. As Iowa's defense strengthened, Marshall's downtown prowess kept the Hawkeyes comfortably in front. In the second and third quarters, Iowa led by double figures for all but 42 seconds. Marshall had 22 points at intermission. Rutgers had 25. 

“Man, she was feeling it today,” Bluder said. “She deserves this. She is so capable.”

The Iowa stars joined the party too. Monika Czinano followed up Wednesday's 38-point outing with 20 points on 10-for-15 shooting. And despite handing the 3-point reins to Marshall for a night, Caitlin Clark finished with 21 points and a game-high 10 assists.    

Rutgers, for all its success this season, never mounted a serious charge. The Scarlet Knights got within eight once in the fourth quarter. Twenty-six points from Diamond Johnson and another 20 from Arella Guirantes hardly made a difference.                      

Now Iowa can really turn some heads. With Michigan State's upset, the Hawkeyes have a clearer path to Saturday's title game with Indiana out of the way. Friday's semifinal tips at approximately 3 p.m. on FS2.

"I think it just helps that we're so close off the court and that we can carry it down onto the court," Marshall said. "And since we're a young team, obviously we're gonna have some kinks we needed to figure out at beginning of the season. I think that we're doing that well now. And it's March — and we just know anything can happen — so we're going to have full confidence in our team and and each other.

"We're just going to do whatever we can to pull out these big wins."

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.