With Tania Davis sidelined, Kathleen Doyle takes point for Iowa women
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder asked Tania Davis to address the team before practice Monday. She told her teammates to always hustle their hearts out — to play each game, each possession, like it’s their last.
Davis saw her last possession come and go Saturday against Michigan, when she tore the ACL in her right knee in the fourth quarter. The sophomore is having surgery next Friday and will hopefully return in 9-10 months, Bluder said.
Kathleen Doyle will fill in as the starting point guard Thursday against Michigan State, and for the foreseeable future. Given the reduced backcourt depth, Bluder said Doyle could play up to 38 minutes a game.
"I’m obviously devastated for Tania, but I’m used to being a point guard," Doyle said Wednesday. "It was kind of a switch for me to become a 2-guard in college. So I’m used to being a point guard, and I know my teammates believe in me and I believe in them.
"(It's a) little bit like riding a bike. I’ve been doing it my entire life, and this is really the only season of basketball that I haven’t been a point guard primarily."
Makenzie Meyer will remain a starting shooting guard, but she’ll now become the backup point guard, as well. She played sparingly at that position early this year before transitioning to the wing. But she was the starting point guard at Mason City for three years, and ESPN ranked her the No. 23 point guard in the 2016 class.
Doyle, who ESPN ranked 26th among 2016 point guards, has played at both guard positions this year. And she actually has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Davis: 1.82, compared with 1.56. Iowa also prides itself on running a somewhat "positionless" motion offense that doesn’t rely too much on set plays, so theoretically, it’ll be easier for Doyle to slide into her new role without a hitch.
But those are faint silver linings. Iowa will miss Davis’ 10.9 points per game, her team-leading 4.3 assists per game, her knack for hitting big shots, her full-court dagger passes, her moxie, her mojo.
"Tania was the backbone of our team," Bluder said, "as far as communication and being the point guard on the floor and the person with the ball in her hands the very most.
"I told (Doyle and Meyer) they’re going to have to be sophomores now."
Added Ally Disterhoft: "People are going to have to step up in other areas, whether that’s scoring, defensive intensity, locking down on the opposing team’s top player. Some of those things we’re really going to have to shore up in Tania’s absence."
Davis’ injury opens up the fifth starting spot again. Bluder said she’d wait until after practice Wednesday to assign the job. She said she doesn’t have it narrowed down to a couple players, either, and that she doesn’t want to seriously alter the team’s style of play this season.
It all just depends on whether she wants to go big (likely Chase Coley) or small (Bre Cera, Christina Buttenham or Alexa Kastanek).
"It can be by committee; it’s not going to be one person who goes in and spends all that time in there," Bluder said. "But it’ll probably break up those minutes among several people."
Another option could have been removing the redshirt from freshman Alexis Sevillian and slotting her in to add some perimeter depth. Bluder said she had discussions about that "for an hour" before deciding against it.
Everyone involved in Wednesday’s media availability — Bluder, Meyer, Doyle and Disterhoft — said the team had responded positively to the changes and had a great practice Monday. The Hawkeyes had been playing their best basketball of the season and were slowly inserting themselves into the upper echelon of NCAA Tournament bubble teams before Davis' injury.
"I’m telling you: This team really cares for one another, and they want to do this for Tania," Bluder said. "And that extra motivation cannot hurt at this point."
This will be Davis' second consecutive summer of rehab. She had surgery on her left shoulder after last season.
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
Iowa (14-9, 5-5, T-5th) vs. Michigan State (16-7, 6-4, T-4th)
When/where: 6 p.m., Carver-Hawkeye Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
About Michigan State: “They’ve beaten Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana (in their past three games)," Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. "And two of those were impressive. Any time you get road wins in the conference, it’s very impressive. They’re a good defensive team. Tori Jankoska (21.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg) is amazing. She’s a tremendous scorer. … She’s a very confident player and she’s, I think, the key to their team.”