Iowa women's basketball cruises by Illinois in rescheduled game

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — While Sunday's schedule shuffling meant Iowa wouldn't get a chance at a top-10 win, the downgrade in opponent meant the Hawkeyes had a better chance to deliver a suffocating performance.

Backed by a solid Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd that was just happy to have a game to attend, Iowa owned Illinois from the opening tip. Two overwhelming first-half runs gave the Hawkeyes more than enough cushion en route to an 82-56 win — the program's seventh straight over the Fighting Illini.

"We came in here and took care of business. That's what we wanted to do," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "We owned the paint. I like the assists numbers. I love that we had four people in double figures, two of them coming off the bench. For us, to not have to play anybody over 30 minutes is really important."     

Less than 72 hours after announcing Sunday's opponent change from No. 6 Indiana to Illinois amid COVID issues within the Hoosiers program, Iowa was running circles around the Fighting Illini. Both ends meshed to perfection. The only drama was just how wide the margin would grow. 

Iowa's initial blow came on a 19-3 game-opening surge, quickly setting the tone for a cruise-control afternoon. Early action mainly flowed through Monika Czinano, who poured in 10 of her 21 points in the opening period.

After a brief second-quarter lull that saw Illinois climb within 12, the Hawkeyes hit the gas once more with an authoritative surge into the break. Iowa closed the half on a 12-2 run that saw McKenna Warnock, Tomi Taiwo and Kate Martin supply all the scoring. A 41-19 intermission lead had this one cemented. 

Iowa guard Tomi Taiwo dribbles the ball up court against Illinois on Sunday in Iowa City.

"Every team is going to have their runs, but the one we had (to end the second quarter) really shut them down going into the half," Taiwo said. "And then we had a really good start to the second half as well." 

As expected, contributors were aplenty. Top scoring totals went to Czinano and Caitlin Clark (18 points), but solid efforts from Taiwo (14), Kylie Feuerbach (10) and Martin (8) provided nice secondary options.

The efforts were equally strong on the defensive end, where the Hawkeyes held Illinois to 32.8% shooting with just one double-digit scorer.

"For us," Clark said, "getting stops on defense leads to our transition offense, which is our best offense. I can really feel it when we're getting stops on defense and we rebound and outlet the ball like we do, it's just so hard to guard in transition."   

Illinois' Geovana Lopes (14) is defended by Iowa guard Gabbie Marshall (24) during Sunday's game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Even amid a crowded stretch — Iowa is scheduled to play Tuesday at Penn State, Friday at Northwestern and next Monday versus Ohio State after beating Minnesota last Thursday — keeping the weekend busy was important to keep continuity flowing. Thursday's dominant effort paired with this complete showing should fuel Iowa through the busy days ahead.   

"We need to make up games, and it's not going to ever be the ideal situation when we have to make up games," Bluder said. "I mean, we're going to Penn State (Tuesday) on a one-day prep. That's not ideal. But if we want to get the games in, we're going to have to do some of those type of things."

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 players, from left, Kylie Feuerbach, Kate Martin and Addison O'Grady celebrate going into a timeout during Sunday's victory over Illinois.