Zuniga: Halftime adjustments, Doyle crucial for Hawkeye women in win

Both halftime adjustments and Kathleen Doyle were key in Iowa’s 70-61 win over Indiana in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.


Katina Zentz

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle dribbles past Indiana guard Jaelynn Penn during the women’s Big Ten tournament basketball game vs. Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday, March 8, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 70-61.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS— No. 10 Iowa women’s basketball handled its first game in the Big Ten Tournament with a 70-61 win over Indiana.

It was a hard-fought, grind-it-out type of game for the Hawkeyes, but they eventually overcame a pesky Hoosier team.

After watching the game, there were two major takeaways, both being positive for Iowa moving on in the tournament.

The first was Iowa’s ability to adapt to their first-half struggles. Turnovers ailed Iowa in the first half – they totaled 9, including four in the first five minutes of the game.

That is certainly not an ideal stat for head coach Lisa Bluder, who said she made it a focus at halftime to slow down their approach.

“We talked about [turnovers] a lot [at halftime],” she said. “We were forcing the ball in and we don’t need to. Sometimes we think we have to score in eight seconds. Well, we don’t. Don’t force it if it’s not there.”

With Bluder’s critique at halftime, the Hawkeyes were much improved in the second half, only turning the ball over 4 times. Even more impressive was the fact that two of those turnovers occurred in the first two minutes of the half.

Iowa has struggled with turnovers all season, posting the 12th-worst turnover margin in the Big Ten this season with minus-1.2 per game.

While one half of taking care of the ball doesn’t alleviate the team’s problem, it shows it is able to make those in-game adjustments and execute them to a T, a valuable attribute in a lose-and-go-home style tournament.

The play of Kathleen Doyle also proved to be a key.

Just looking at the box score, one might get the impression she had a rough game; she managed a meager 5 points on a woeful 2-of-9 from the floor.

However, Doyle’s value to the team comes from much more than just her ability to put the ball in the net.

It’s everything else she does that makes her so important to this Hawkeye team.

Offensively, her main role is to get the ball zipping around the floor to find the open shot, and oftentimes that open Hawkeye is Megan Gustafson. But without Doyle and her fellow guards, Gustafson might never touch the ball.

Doyle’s prowess in being the facilitator for the Hawkeye offense has been on display all season long. However, it was especially evident in Big Ten play where she averaged 6.3 assists a game to lead the conference.

She passed out another 6 assists tonight, making her a key part of the Iowa win.

“She came in strong when we needed her,” guard Makenzie Meyer said. “She’s an excellent distributor. She was able to get a good amount of assists tonight, that was huge for our team.”

Some guards are notorious for being single-minded players, only focusing on offense. Doyle doesn’t fall in that category.

Defensively, she’s a pest for opposing offenses, averaging 2.3 steals per game, which ranks second in the Big Ten.

Doyle was only able to get one steal Friday, but her defense was needed more than ever as she drew a tough assignment in Ali Patberg.

Patberg averaged 13.8 points per game coming into the matchup and while she was able to drop 25 against Iowa, Doyle made things tough for her in the second half.

After the first half where Patberg shot 4-of-4 from the field, Doyle tamed her in the second half, forcing her to shoot just 4-for-12 in the final half.

“You give Kathleen a challenge, she’s going to step up,” Bluder said. “She’s going to everything she has. That’s a challenge to guard Patberg, and I thought she did a really good job.”