Lisa Bluder breaks down Iowa’s win over Wisconsin. Dargan Southard/HawkCentral
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Hawkeyes flexed their muscles from the opening tip and rolled right over an outmatched Wisconsin squad.
Iowa racked up its fifth straight win, routing the Badgers, 88-61, in Sunday’s Pink Game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes (21-6, 9-5 Big Ten Conference) continue to cruise through the back half of the Big Ten slate, and are trending upward at the right time.
“I thought we had great energy coming out of this game,” Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said. “I thought we started with high energy on both offense and defense. We were pushing the ball well, defending well. I think we held them to four points in the first five minutes.
“Just really did a good job with the scout. I thought the kids did of knowing personnel and what to do with each of those.”
Without Makenzie Meyer in the first Iowa-Wisconsin matchup on Dec. 28, the Badgers hung around a bit into the second half. No such repeat on Sunday, as the Hawkeyes raced out to a 45-23 halftime advantage and kept cruising. Walk-ons and reserves dotted the Iowa lineup deep into the second half.
The Hawkeyes put four in double figures — Megan Gustafson (25 points), Alexis Sevillian (19), Kathleen Doyle (10) and Hannah Stewart (10).
“It was really nice to see us be able to put it away early,” Gustafson said. “I thought we came out and had a really good start. I think that was really important. We keep doing that, and we need to continue to do that finishing up the final stretch here.”
Here’s what we learned.
A spark from downtown
Getting Sevillian going would be another huge boost as Iowa heads into March. The redshirt freshman tied a career high with five treys, en route to her highest scoring performance since Jan. 7.
“We had the week off,” Sevillian said, “so a lot of us were able to come in and get a lot more shots up, get more repetitions. And I think that gave us the confidence for tonight.”
Sevillian has been spotty of late, entering Sunday shooting 29 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep in Big Ten play.
Considering its cellar-dwelling status, Wisconsin isn’t the best gauge for a potential turnaround. But for a struggling shooter, seeing shots fall in bunches can be therapeutic no matter the foe.
Sevillian’s outside game is a potent option when clicking. Iowa needs every weapon come postseason play.
The win keeps Iowa fifth in the Big Ten standings, one game out of landing a double-bye in the conference tournament as a top-four seed. The Hawkeyes sit at 9-5. Minnesota and Nebraska are both 10-4.
The Gophers have games remaining against Indiana and Illinois, while the Cornhuskers face Penn State and travel to Maryland. Iowa loses a head-to-head tiebreaker to Nebraska because of the Cornhuskers’ season sweep.
Determining whether Iowa wins a tiebreaker with Minnesota is a bit more complicated. The teams split in the regular season, so the tiebreaker falls to each team's record versus the team occupying the highest position in the final regular-season standings.
Maryland and Ohio State are currently tied for the top spot, both at 11-3. The Terps own that head-to-head tiebreaker because of their win over the Buckeyes, but Maryland finishes up at Michigan and against Nebraska. Ohio State plays an easier road against Northwestern and Penn State.
All that to say this: Iowa needs Ohio State to finish ahead of Maryland to win the tiebreaker over Minnesota. The Hawkeyes beat Ohio State but lost to Maryland. Minnesota beat Maryland on Sunday but lost to Ohio State.
But that only comes into play if Minnesota loses one of its two final games. The Gophers will be heavy favorites in both.
Still, the easiest route for Iowa to get a double-bye is winning out, one loss from Minnesota, two wins from Ohio State and one loss from Maryland.
Bluder knows it’s possible, but Iowa can only control so much.
“We’d love to get that (double-bye),” Bluder said, “especially when we don’t have a really deep team by any means. It would be really good, and that’s a huge advantage for the top-four seeds to get that double-bye.
“But all we can do is go out and win the next game, and that’s all we can concern ourselves with. We can’t concern ourselves with what other people are doing. We’ve got to take care of our own business — and we’d love to have that — but if it doesn’t happen, we’ll make the best of that situation.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.