Doolittle, Iowa women ready for Northwestern

Ryan Murken

Iowa needed and produced a big bounce-back performance Sunday against Purdue.

No Hawkeye needed to bounce back more than Bethany Doolittle.

After struggling through a 3-for-12 shooting performance in a loss at Illinois, the senior center responded with a 15-point performance as No. 22 Iowa avoided dropping back-to-back games for the first time since last January.

"The coaches were really on me about bouncing back from that game and I tried to change the mindset knowing that my teammates and my coaches have faith in me," Doolittle said. "I know what I can do so I tried to do that."

Doolittle didn't waste any time putting the Illinois game behind her.

The 6-foot-4 center made 5-of-9 field goals in the first half and had 11 points in the opening half after scoring six points in the loss to Illinois.

Doolittle finished 6-of-10 from the field Sunday and her 15 points were the most in a Big Ten contest this season.

"We talked about resiliency and how you have to bounce back," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "When things are going well for you, it's real easy to be positive, it's real easy to be up, but when things don't go your way is when it really challenges you, and that's when you show your character. I thought Beth showed that."

Doolittle and the Hawkeyes will be trying to build off Sunday's win when they host Northwestern (13-2, 3-1 Big Ten) Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Carver Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa (12-3, 3-1 Big Ten) and Northwestern are locked in a tie with Minnesota for second place in the Big Ten standings at 3-1 behind league-leading Maryland (4-0).

The Wildcats are coming off their second conference win of the season against Michigan State, a 77-70 win in Evanston that gave Northwestern its first regular-season sweep of the Spartans since 1993.

At 3-1, Northwestern is just two wins away from matching its Big Ten win total from a season ago when the Wildcats finished 17-16 and went 5-11 in conference play."

"I felt like both Minnesota and Northwestern could really make a run at it this year just because of who they were returning, basically everybody, from both of those teams, and they were so dangerous last year," Bluder said. "So it doesn't surprise us."

The calling card for the Wildcats this season has been defense.

Northwestern is holding opponents to a Big Ten-best 55.9 points per game and hasn't allowed more than 73 points in four Big Ten games.

The Wildcats lead the conference in field-goal percentage defense, 3-point percentage defense and steals, and are second in the league in turnover margin.

"They are a very good basketball team and so we know what we have in store for us," Bluder said. "We have two days to prepare for it."

Northwestern and Iowa are two of the most balanced offensive teams in the conference.

Both teams have four players averaging double figures in scoring and neither has a player scoring more than 16.3 points per game.

Sophomore forward Nia Coffey leads six Northwestern players who average more than 8.3 points per game at 15.6 points per outing.

The 6-foot-1 Coffey leads the Wildcats with eight rebounds per game and 1.9 blocks per game.

"Nia Coffey is probably one of the best players in our conference, and she's only a sophomore," Bluder said. "She is an unbelievable athlete and has had USA Basketball experience."

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.

Northwestern (13-2, 3-1 Big Ten) at No. 22 Iowa (12-3, 3-1 Big Ten)

Specifics — 7 p.m. Carver Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City

Following the game — Radio: KXIC (800 AM), WMT (AM 600), WHO (1040 AM) Hawkeye Radio Network. Live scoring:

Preview — Contrasting styles clash as Iowa's high scoring attack (80.1 ppg) faces a Northwestern squad that allows the fewest points in the Big Ten at 55.9 points per game. Iowa is 11-0 this season when it scores more than 70 points and 0-3 when it fails to reach the 70-point mark.