Tenacious defense leads to red-hot runs for Iowa

Iowa took advantage of Missouri’s foul trouble and went on multiple scoring runs to secure a trip to the Sweet 16.


Roman Slabach

Iowa forward Hannah Stewart (21) attempts to block a shot during the Iowa/Missouri NCAA Tournament second round women’s basketball game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa on Sunday, March 24, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 68-52.

Robert Read, Sports Reporter

In a second-round matchup full of hot and cold stretches for both teams, Iowa got the upper hand over Missouri to move on to the Sweet 16.

Both teams grabbed ahold of the lead at different stretches of the game, although foul trouble on the Missouri side sent a couple of its leading scorers to the bench, leading to large Iowa runs.

“It really felt like a game of runs,” Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton said. “But when you give up offensive rebounds and don’t hit open shots, that gives them the advantage.”

Missouri finished the first quarter with a 20-16 edge on Iowa, but the game would change dramatically going forward.

Missouri found itself out to a 25-24 lead with 5:21 remaining in the second quarter, the largest lead the Tigers would have in the game.

Sophie Cunningham, Missouri’s leading scorer this season who averages 18.1 points per game, had foul trouble early and only finished with 8 points.

Cunningham picked up her third personal foul with 2:11 left in the second quarter, and the Hawkeyes would dominate the rest of the half.

Iowa went on a 13-0 scoring run towards the close of the first half, with 9 points coming with Cunningham on the bench. The second quarter was when Iowa found its edge, outscoring the Tigers, 17-9. Cunningham spent two stints of the quarter on the bench in foul trouble.

Cunningham would not commit another foul of the rest of the game, but by the end of the first half, the damage was already done.

“A great way to play defense on a great scorer like her is for her to not be in the game,” Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle said. “That worked out for us, she’s a great player but got in some foul trouble, and we took advantage of it.”

Iowa knew how key Cunningham was for Missouri coming into the game, and the defensive attention they put on her, along with the foul trouble, led to a quiet day.

“We respected her, we know how good of a player she is,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We did not want her to get any open looks, no good shot attempts. We got her in a bit of foul trouble at the start of the game, but she still played 32 minutes, so it’s really a credit to our defense.”

Iowa would never give up the lead the rest of the game after Missouri gave up the lead in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes outscored Missouri 21-11 – including the first 11 points of the quarter – to close out the game and send Iowa home with a victory.

According to Bluder, the key to the two big Hawkeye runs was a tenacious defense.

“I think in those runs, we played great defensively,” Bluder said. “We were making them take so much time off of the clock. They didn’t have many great looks, we just kept getting defensive stop after defensive stop, and Megan [Gustafson] cleaned up on the defensive boards for us. It gave us a real mental edge.”

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