No. 25 Iowa women's basketball delivers season's best performance in road win over No. 6 Indiana

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

Speaking Friday afternoon before the first leg of a unique home-and-home, Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder acknowledged the difficulty Iowa faced with playing Indiana twice in barely 48 hours. However, she was also quick to call the weekend an "opportunity stretch" that could do wonders in multiple areas.

Well, opportunity seized.

The No. 25 Hawkeyes controlled every element of Saturday's trip to Assembly Hall, blowing by No. 6 Indiana, 96-91, for a massive road win. Iowa's most impressive performance of the season aided countless aspects — including postseason résumé enhancement, Big Ten standings improvement and a restoration of confidence after some seesawing weeks. 

Iowa's strong vibes started even before the opening tip, as the Hawkeyes got forward McKenna Warnock back for the first time since Jan. 31. Iowa was finally at full strength and delivered a performance reflecting as much. 

Open Hawkeyes were all over the floor from the opening tip, resulting in a 15-point Iowa lead before the first quarter ended. A raucous senior day crowd never had a chance to make a difference on this day. 

After taking a 31-21 advantage with 5:50 remaining in the second quarter, Iowa never let its cushion get below double figures until 63 seconds remained. The Hawkeyes' advantage ballooned to as many as 24 in the second half before Indiana had one final push in desperation mode. Amid several late reviews, the Hoosiers had a 6-0 run in the final 20 seconds to slice a 10-point deficit down to four before Iowa officially closed things out.     

A dominant interior effort saw Monika Czinano lead the Hawkeyes with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Caitlin Clark added 18 points, but her greatest contributions came in the other category where she's the nation's best. Clark's 12 assists opened up easy shots for the entire Iowa team.

Warnock shined with 21 points in her return, showcasing the efficient range that's been there all throughout Big Ten play. She was 3-for-4 from the outside and ignited instant energy upon returning to the starting lineup.

After whiffing at previous chances for a ranked win against Ohio State, Michigan and Maryland, the Hawkeyes sent a loud message to the NCAA selection committee and the Big Ten as a whole. Now, Iowa can greedy Monday and go for a top-10 sweep on its home floor.     

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.