Iowa women's basketball: No. 11 Hawkeyes throttle Samford in second non-conference tune-up
IOWA CITY — Exuberant Iowa fans lost their minds as the t-shirt gun fired Hawkeyes apparel into the crowd during a first-half break. Elderly supporters hurled shouts at the officiating crew moments later. A perfectly executed Pancheros "burrito lift" arrived at the next timeout.
Things are pretty much back to normal at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
And for the second time in three days, Lisa Bluder's squad gave the home crowd plenty to cheer for.
No. 11 Iowa dismantled Samford from the opening tip, picking up a 91-54 win Thursday in front of 4,555. A simple tune-up on paper unfolded as exactly that, allowing the Hawkeyes (2-0) to get plenty of people in the game and in the stat sheet.
"We just have so many weapons on this team," Bluder said. "It just gives you a lot of comfort as a coach, and it bodes well for the length of this season. Because the season does get long. It's a grind. We have to be able to spread those minutes out. That's better for us."
Ten of 11 Hawkeyes who saw the floor scored, spearheaded by Caitlin Clark's 19 and Monika Czinano's 20. Substitutions came early and often for an established Iowa squad looking for a few depth answers.
The biggest of those comes behind the all-Big Ten forward Czinano, with more evidence arriving Thursday on how Bluder plans to handle that situation. Logan Cook and Addison O'Grady again mostly split those duties with positive results — sometimes even on the floor together. It's not the most pressing of questions Iowa must answer, but these non-conference tune-ups provide the perfect setting for depth solidification.
"My teammates instill so much confidence in me," Cook said. "Just getting my confidence up and getting in the flow for the bigger games ahead was big."
Defensive stability is also pivotal for Iowa to uncover. The Hawkeyes were largely strong on that front, holding Samford to 33% shooting and 35% from deep. That's as meaningful a takeaway as any against a Bulldogs squad picked second in the preseason Southern Conference poll.
As evidenced by the amount of Clark merchandise splattered throughout the arena, Iowa fans were here to see their all-American do something special.
For a minute, it appeared this might be a game in which Clark lurked in the background. She heaved the first shot of the game, missed — then assisted as her teammates scored Iowa's first 20 points. The Hawkeyes already owned a double-digit lead by the time Clark's first field goal splashed home.
"Just building confidence and getting everyone in is key (in a game like this)," Clark said. "Especially for our young players, getting them in and getting them acclimated to college basketball. Us (veterans) have that experience in those games, and we know we're going to have to play big minutes down the road.
"Just getting other players involved, running different sets and defenses — so we have that game experience on a bunch of different things."
The superstar sophomore made up for lost time, scoring Iowa's last five first-quarter points before heading to the locker room with 15 on 6-for-10 shooting. Her highlight of the night came on a nasty crossover and step-back in transition, which sent an overmatched Samford defender flailing by.
A drama-free night was Iowa's ceiling in this early-season affair. The Hawkeyes now ready for a step up Sunday when they trek north to face Northern Iowa. The Panthers (1-0) opened the year with a nice road win at Saint Louis.
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.