IOWA CITY, Ia. — Maybe it’s because she’d been to the Knapp Center before on a Drake recruiting visit. Or because she was playing an old Mason City High teammate in Cortni Rush, so there was some familiarity there.
Whatever is was, Makenzie Meyer was Iowa's best player not named Ally Disterhoft or Megan Gustafson in its 81-76 loss at Drake on Sunday. While so many of her teammates got rattled, Meyer appeared unfazed.
Her stats aren't remarkable at face value. Seven points, three assists, a couple steals and a block.
But here’s the good stuff: zero turnovers and one personal foul in 28 minutes. In other words: smart, smart, smart basketball.
And two of those assists, both steals and the block all came in the fourth quarter, when Drake could have — should have — pulled away sooner.
Meyer was a big reason that didn’t happen. Iowa trailed 77-70 with 1:40 left. Then Meyer poked away her second steal, which led to a Disterhoft layup — 77-72. Two possessions later, Meyer’s block led to another Disterhoft layup to make it 77-74 with 30 ticks left.
"She just stepped up," Disterhoft said, "and she hit a few shots when we needed her to, which is always nice to see. We’re proud of that. Obviously we wish the outcome was different, but that was a bright spot."
Here are some takeaways regarding the spots that weren’t so bright.
A lot of sitting
Kathleen Doyle’s aggressive play is what makes her so good on defense. It’s also what led to two quick fouls late in the first that spoiled the rest of her afternoon.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder sat Doyle for the entire second quarter — not wanting to risk her picking up a third foul before the second half, Bluder said.
Good reason. Bad result.
Doyle sat out for about 20 minutes of real time, only getting up to cheer or for timeouts. Then she sat some more at halftime. By the time the third quarter finally came around, Doyle looked tight. She played tight. She logged just 10 minutes in the second half and finished with 5 points and as many turnovers as assists (two).
"Maybe she got out of it mentally, sitting out that long," Bluder said. "She was sitting on the bench a long time, obviously, and then she never really got into her game. She’s such a good player, and she’s going to be amazing. You didn’t see it today, but I know it’s there and I have complete confidence in her. It was one of those games where a freshman goes on the road and gets shell-shocked a little bit."
Iowa's head coach was impressed by a Bulldogs team that beat her team 81-76.
To be fair, most of the Hawkeyes looked shell-shocked. And credit Drake for that.
The Bulldogs used a 14-2 run to turn a 7-9 deficit to a 21-11 lead with 1:40 left in the first. They led the rest of the game — always by at least 3 and by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Bluder sounded a bit like she did following Iowa’s 66-64 loss to South Dakota State on Nov. 20.
Here’s what she said then: "I think you saw an experienced team kind of beat up on an inexperienced team today. I thought our freshmen kind of struggled, being in that situation, and I know that they are better than what they showed today. They will learn from this and be more prepared the next time."
Here’s what she said Sunday: "I think you saw a young team in Iowa come in here and get their tails whooped. And that’s exactly what happened by a veteran Drake team. So great job by Drake. We’ll get there. We just have some work to do, but we’ll get there."
The trip to the Knapp Center was Iowa’s first true road game since it won at North Dakota in mid-November. And that 2,261-person crowd in Grand Forks, N.D., didn’t pose the same decibel threat as the 3,307 win-starving Drake fans in a rivalry setting.
"I think you’re going to see that with a young team — kind of the ups and downs," Bluder said. "You’ve just got to ride that. You’ve just got to be patient with them. Obviously they lost a little bit of their swagger outside of Carver Hawkeye Arena. We didn’t shoot the ball as well today as we’ve been shooting it."
Iowa had been shooting 55 percent (91-for-166) in its three-game winning streak; 52 percent (29-for-56) from long range.
Against Drake: 43 percent overall, 30 percent from long range.
Feed the beast
Megan Gustafson notched her seventh double-double with a 20-point, 11-rebound afternoon. That’s fourth-best in the country.
She scored those 20 on 10-of-14 shooting, and Bluder wanted her to touch the ball way more than she did.
"I think when we watch the film, we’ll see a lot of opportunities missed trying to get the ball to Megan inside," Bluder said. "We just go away from her sometimes, and I don’t know why. Why not continue going to the well when it’s giving you water? She has all year long."
Bluder’s got a point. Gustafson took six shots in the second quarter; she took six the rest of the game.
Here’s Gustafson’s offensive production by quarter:
First: four points on two shots.
Second: eight points on six shots.
Third: two points on three shots.
Fourth: three points on three shots.
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_.
Who/where: Iowa (8-4) vs. Kent State (6-4), Carver Hawkeye Arena
When/TV: 5 p.m., Big Ten Network Plus
About the game: Kent State lost 68-65 to Robert Morris in its third game this year; Iowa beat Robert Morris 81-60. It's a bit of a one-woman offensive show for Kent State, with senior Larissa Lurken netting 23 points per game. The next-highest is junior Jordan Korinek, with 12 a game. Nobody else averages double digits in scoring.