Takeaways: Iowa youth outshines Northwestern's experience, Coley thrives in first start

Matthew Bain

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa's freshmen and sophomores played 108 of the Hawkeyes' 200 total minutes in their 78-59 win over Northwestern on Thursday night. Seniors — Ally Disterhoft, Alexa Kastanek and Hailey Schneden — played 54.

For the Wildcats, freshmen and sophomores played 62 minutes, while their five seniors combined for 123.

That was head coach Lisa Bluder’s biggest worry this week: How a young team might respond to playing a team loaded with experience.

Iowa teammates head into a timeout during the Hawkeyes' game against Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeyes Arena on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.

Her Hawkeyes looked like the experienced bunch Thursday. In those 108 minutes, Iowa’s freshmen and sophomores recorded 40 points, 22 rebounds and nine assists.

"I thought it's that time of year where freshmen stop playing like freshmen," Bluder said.

Older teams generally play smarter basketball and turn it over less. Through one quarter, Northwestern had just one turnover and Iowa had eight. But the rest of the way: eight for Northwestern, six for Iowa.

The Hawkeyes also put Northwestern away early and kept them away — something you don’t always see in younger teams. They inflated a 16-12 lead to 25-15 early in the second and maintained a double-digit lead for most of the rest of the game, including the final 13 minutes.

They obviously did that without Tania Davis, who’s been out for the year since Feb. 5 with a torn ACL. They also did that without Bre Cera and Christina Buttenham, who sustained concussions this week in practice (on separate occasions). So these young Hawkeyes were without critical cogs with starting experience, too.

"It's just another wrench thrown in here," Bluder said. "But I'm telling you, my players, every time they handle every situation. They're staying positive, they're staying confident. They can handle it. They're coming with ultimate focus for practice when we do have to change some things around.

"We do have to tweak some things because of people moving in and out of the lineups. But they're staying focused and doing a great job. So I really commend my team because they're just doing such a great job."

Iowa's Amanda Ollinger takes a contested shot during the Hawkeyes' game against Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeyes Arena on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.

Ollinger, Coley have big nights

Two players benefited more than most from the shortened bench: Amanda Ollinger and Chase Coley.

Ollinger, a freshman from Linn-Mar, amassed four minutes in January and hadn’t played since Jan. 21. But she was the second player off the bench after Kastanek on Thursday, and she grabbed two rebounds in three minutes of first-quarter action.

She finished with five points, six rebounds and an assist in an efficient 11 minutes. Iowa was plus-five points in those minutes.

"Amanda has practiced hard all year, but definitely with Bre and Christina being out, it forced the hand on a lot of things, but she's definitely earned it," Bluder said. "As you can see with her confidence out there, I thought she really went out there and played confidently, that she feels like she deserves it, and you want kids feeling that way."

With Cera out, Coley earned her first start of the season after starting 31 of Iowa’s 33 games last year. She’d seen her role, which was more minimal than many expected in nonconference play, expand significantly in the Big Ten season.

Iowa's Chase Coley draws a foul as she drives to the hoop during the Hawkeyes' game against Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeyes Arena on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.

She led the team with 11 rebounds — four offensive — in her 26 minutes. She added nine points, four assists and one steal to only one turnover. She drained all five of her free throw shots.

Those four offensive rebounds led to four points, all Coley free throws.

"Yeah I had fun tonight," Coley said. "Bre’s out, and one thing that I think Bre really brings to this team, and so does Christina, they’re both great rebounders. They’re obviously not as tall as I am but they just get after it with all that hustle. So I kind of tried to go out there and fill that spot that we were kind of missing out there, so I really focused on my rebounding tonight."

Added Bluder: "Chase, I really recognized her after the game for her rebounding. We've kind of been on her all year about that rebounding, and she was our leading rebounder today, and our leading offensive rebounder, so that was really nice to see."

Wait ... she did what?

Quietly, Doyle may have had her best game of the season.

Her final stat line: eight points, seven rebounds (season high) and seven assists (tied a season high). This in her third game as Iowa’s new starting point guard with Davis gone for the year.

She’s averaging 10.3 points and three assists in the past three games running the point.

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.