The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Expect to see plenty of Bethany Doolittle against Michigan

There was a time when this would have gone without saying, but Hawkeye fans will see a lot of Bethany Doolittle on Thursday night.

The senior, who led the team in scoring a season ago (14.2 points per game and 55 percent from the floor), is playing a slightly reduced role so far this season, but she has, in recent games, reminded fans why she is one of several Iowa greats on Iowa’s roster. Her surge has been timely; this evening’s game against Michigan is Doolittle’s bobblehead night.

She entered the season as part of the four-headed monster of returning starters Sam Logic, Melissa Dixon, Ally Disterhoft, and the 6-foot-4 center. The four have lived up to expectations in terms of fueling the Hawkeyes to legitimate Big Ten contention, but the on-floor dynamic among them is shaping up somewhat differently from last season’s campaign.

This season, Doolittle’s average has fallen to 11.6 points per contest on just 45 percent from the floor, very much a result of the offense’s emphasis of Dixon’s outside shooting, which now has the guard leading with 15.9 points.

Despite Doolittle’s slight dip, she and Dixon pose one of the more devastating inside-outside duos in the conference.

“When you have an in-out combination like [Dixon and Doolittle], it’s going to be tough to guard,” Logic said. “It’s huge, because everyone is out denying Melissa, and especially with Dixon, that’s going to give you an easy post pass to Beth.”

Recently, there has been an uptick in how often the Hawkeyes make that entry pass to Doolittle in the post. In six games over winter break, her touches and production have returned to 2013 form and then some.

Beginning in the 100-98 thriller at Drake on Dec. 21, 2014, Doolittle is averaging 15 points per game on 55 percent shooting from the floor along with 7.3 rebounds. Furthermore, she’s been swatting away 3.3 blocks in that stretch, which is not only above her 2.3 blocks this season but her 2.9 blocks in her record-setting 2013-14 campaign.

So perhaps head coach Lisa Bluder is tailoring her offense to adjust to the Big Ten season, focusing more down low than on the outside? Think again.

As Logic mentioned, the in-out dynamic doesn’t necessarily need to take from one in order to add to the other. Instead, they feed off each other.

Of all the points scored from field goals this season, 37 percent of them have come on 3-pointers. Over winter break, with Doolittle dominating in the paint, that number didn’t only not drop, it actually increased to 38 percent. It now appears that the Hawkeyes are learning how to maintain an inside and outside identity, allowing them to coexist.

With several uncharacteristic, slower-paced games recently, Bluder has reminded her team the ability to win in a variety of games is a good skill to have.

“It’s good to win in different ways,” Bluder said.

That’s definitely one thing the Hawkeyes have going for them. Driven by fantastic guard play and 3-point shooting, Doolittle’s presence in the post gives them the X-factor they need to win any way they may need to. 

“She’s a phenomenal post player,” Dixon said. “She’s always in there doing her best and getting us rebounds.”

Winter break began with a 100-98 win at Drake, while the spring semester began with a 52-50 win at Michigan State.

It’s anyone’s guess which Iowa team will show up on Thursday night, but one thing is for sure; there’s going to be plenty of Bethany Doolittle.

Follow @KyleFMann on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.

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