Iowa women's basketball: No. 11 Hawkeyes push past Southern, 87-67

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — There was no drama on the scoreboard Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, as No. 11 Iowa overwhelmed Southern for an 87-67 women's basketball victory.

Was it the Hawkeyes' sharpest performance against an overmatched foe? No. But the goal for this contest was simply keeping Iowa (4-0) fresh between in-state showdowns

"Either you scored on a transition or you got fouled," said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, now one win from reaching 800 in her career. "And there was no rhythm to the game." 

The Hawkeyes lived at the foul line from the opening jump, finishing 33-for-38 on free throws while constantly in the bonus. Caitlin Clark was there the most, with 11 of her 16 points coming there. 

Iowa guard Tomi Taiwo (1) drives to the basket past Southern's Aleighyah Fontenot (2) during Wednesday's game in Iowa City. Taiwo scored 12 points in the victory.

The free points — plus 10 rebounds and 10 assists for her second career triple-double — kept her contributions aplenty even as shots didn't fall. Clark's first field goal other than a fast-break layup didn't arrive until late in the third quarter. Double-digit assistance from Monika Czinano (16 points), McKenna Warnock (15 points) and Tomi Taiwo (12 points) prevented any sort of Southern push. 

"I think the game would've been pretty close if we weren't making free throws like we should've been," Clark said. "That's where most of our points came, especially in the first half.

"But we're a great free-throw shooting team. We know every time we step up to the line, we want to be above 85%. That's where our team is at most of the time and in practice. Definitely super confident all around when we step up to the line. It's not really a surprising number to us, but it's definitely something we needed to do tonight."   

Sharing the ball like Iowa did Wednesday will make Bluder happy. The numbers in Iowa's typical area of concerns will not.         

The Hawkeyes coughed up 18 turnovers — all of them pretty evenly spread across the 40 minutes. Some are to be expected with the way Iowa pushes things, but too many were unforced errors from wild, out-of-control runs. 

The other issue arrived on defense, where the Hawkeyes know this season's ultimate narrative likely rests. It's not like Southern had a good shooting night  — 24-for-52 from the field, 6-for-23 from deep — but the Jaguars (0-3) still scored at a much improved rate from their first two games. Southern put up a combined 72 points in losses to Texas A&M and Marquette. It nearly reached that figure in Wednesday's game alone. 

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) gets fouled by Southern's Chloe Fleming during Wednesday's game at at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

"We tried a lot of different things on defense tonight," Clark said. "There are some areas we wanted to improve. No matter whomever you're playing, you're just always looking at the film and finding ways to improve. I think there will be plenty of that on film from tonight. 

"It's only going to get harder from here. So definitely need to improve."    

If anything, emphasis on turnovers and defense will grow louder in the practice days ahead of Sunday's always-entertaining showdown against Drake. Consider that the biggest benefit of Wednesday's affair.

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.  

Iowa's Monika Czinano, right, passes the ball to Caitlin Clark during Wednesday's nonconference game against Southern. Both players scored 16 points to lead the Hawkeyes.