Iowa women takeaways: Freshmen shine on defense, struggle on offense
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Fifth-ranked Maryland played exhibitions against schools called Bluefield State College and Mary Baldwin University. It won by a combined score of 299-44, so take that as you will.
Meanwhile, Iowa played an exhibition against a perennial top-10 Division II school in Lewis University and won 61-35.
Head coach Lisa Bluder wanted a challenge for her team, and she got one in the first half. The Hawkeyes led just 24-16 at the break and had already committed 18 turnovers.
In the second half? Just five turnovers, 37 points scored and 19 allowed on 29 percent shooting. Those 35 total points allowed are the lowest any Hawkeye opponent has scored in the past decade.
Let’s dive into the good and not so good from Iowa’s first game action.
Freshmen shine on D, struggle on O
Makenzie Meyer was asked how she felt playing at both guard positions Sunday. She smiled at her first press conference question and dished out a politically correct, “we’ll re-evaluate how that went” answer.
Next to her, Ally Disterhoft cracked up and nudged Meyer’s side.
“She did a good job today,” Disterhoft said, re-answering for her freshman teammate.
Meyer did do a good job. Same with all the freshmen from Iowa’s top-10 recruiting class. Most of the positives came on defense, though, with five steals and countless other deflections from pesky, active hands. Pretty much all of their mistakes came on offense, as they combined for 13 of Iowa’s 23 turnovers and shot 19 percent (4-for-21).
“The offense is always a little slower because it’s five moving parts and that’s harder, so that takes time,” Bluder said. “I just think they were really excited to be out here wearing an Iowa uniform and that’ll get better.”
Some ups and downs from each of the freshmen ...
- Doyle and Bre Cera got the starting nods Sunday. Doyle blocked a layup attempt on Iowa’s first defensive possession, then followed that with an errant pass and turnover on Iowa’s first offensive possession.
- With about 3 minutes left in the third, Doyle pushed to the basket out of a halfcourt set for a nice layup in traffic, but it didn’t fall. She grabbed her own rebound and took an immediate jumper from the free-throw line. That missed, too. She finished with no points, two rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, a block and two steals.
- Nasty. That’s the only word to describe Cera on defense and the boards. She and Doyle stood out the most on defense. If Cera ever got beat on defense, it sure wasn’t obvious. She’s got rapid feet and yawning length.
- The one time she did attempt a shot, she drove baseline into a double team and turned it over. She finished with no points, two rebounds, three turnovers and a steal.
- The Iowa native finished with two steals and led all freshmen with a pair of assists. She had the best offensive rhythm of the freshmen, with seven points and a quick transition corner 3 in the third quarter.
- Midway through the second, Meyer got trapped out on the perimeter. She had some options, including calling a timeout or muscling into the defenders to try to draw a foul. She did neither and got called for a five-second violation. She finished with seven points, one rebound, two assists, five turnovers and two steals.
Amanda Ollinger, Alexis Sevillian
- Sevillian played four minutes. She whipped a clean pass for Meyer for a transition baseline jumper late in the second quarter. She finished with an assist and a turnover.
- We saw Ollinger’s heralded 3-point stroke midway through the third — a straightaway spinner that skimmed across the rim and out. She had the most success driving to the hoop, but consistently missed point-blank layups and finished 1-for-7. She had two points and eight rebounds
We’ll call them “platoon one” and “platoon two."
Bluder started Disterhoft, Doyle, Cera, Megan Gustafson and Tania Davis — platoon one. Then, just over three minutes into the game, she called a five-for-five exchange as platoon two — Meyer, Ollinger, Chase Coley, Alexa Kastanek and Christina Buttenham — checked in.
Bluder said all offseason this team runs far down the bench, maybe farther than she’s ever coached. Can she actually go 10-deep and utilize this platoon system beyond Sunday’s meaningless game?
“We just have to figure out how to use (our depth),” Bluder said. “It’s not a strength unless you use it, so we’re still putting the pieces together figuring that out.
“I’m going to have to evaluate (the platoon system). Go back and watch the film and figure out if we liked it and then also figure out if we had the right groups. So we’ll have to see this week.”
The system had its effect Sunday. Hawkeye legs were fresher, faces were dryer, lungs breathed easier in the third and fourth quarters. Lewis struggled to keep up. Over the game’s final 27 minutes, Iowa outscored Lewis 33-15.
The system seemed to especially work for Davis, whose best minutes were her final minutes. She had three assists and two rebounds in the last 2:30 of the third, and she added three more assists in the fourth. She finished one point shy of a double-double (nine points, 10 assists).
“With the platoon system, you have five fresh people coming in every time so I think that definitely helped us at the end of the third going into the fourth,” Davis said. “Just being fresh and getting after it on defense and running hard on offense.”
Iowa opens its regular season next Friday against Oral Roberts. We may or may not see the platoon system again, and we may or may not see a different starting five. Bluder said she isn't yet sure if she'll stick with either.
Bain covers Hawkeyes basketball for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.