Clean second half lifts Iowa over Princeton in overtime

Iowa women’s basketball’s overtime win over Princeton required ball security and sound fundamentals.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa forward Amanda Ollinger defends during a women's basketball game between Iowa and Princeton at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, November 20, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers, 77-75, in overtime.

Pete Mills, Sports Reporter

The ball just seemed to be rolling Princeton’s way on Wednesday night. The Hawkeye women could only watch as Tiger guard Julia Cunningham dropped a buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime in the fourth quarter.

But Iowa gritted its teeth and controlled its own game, as the team squeaked by in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 77-75.

Ahead of Wednesday night’s matchup with Princeton, guard Makenzie Meyer said it would take heart for the Hawkeye women to play cleaner defense.

Coming off a 22-point loss to in-state rival Northern Iowa, Iowa struggled to put that sentiment into action in the first half against Princeton. The Tigers had their way with the Hawkeyes in the first half, carrying a 10-point lead into halftime.

Hawkeye head coach Lisa Bluder referred to all-Ivy League guard Bella Alarie as one of the best forwards in college basketball, and Alarie lived up to that in the first half. She was a perfect 2-for-2 from 3-point range at the break, scoring 14 points and going 66 percent from the field.

But Amanda Ollinger – who led the Iowa team with 41 minutes on the floor in the game – stayed tight on Alarie in the second half, holding her to just nine points in the next 20 minutes of action.

“Everyone knows that she’s bigger than me,” Ollinger said. “The only thing I can do is beat her to her spot and be in the correct position at all times. Just make the shot that she’s taking hard, don’t give her easy looks.”

Ollinger’s steadiness on the defensive end gave her 13 rebounds to end the night. But perhaps more importantly, Alarie missed critical free-throws in overtime that helped Iowa secure the win.

“Amanda made her work for every one of [those points],” Bluder said. “Amanda did a really good job on her, and maybe wore her out [into] missing that free-throw at the end.”

The team cleaned up on the offensive end, as well. The Hawkeye women have had a knack for getting to the free-throw line in recent seasons but converting the opportunities have not always come as easily. In Sunday’s loss to Northern Iowa, the Hawkeye shot 55 percent from the line.

“We know we’re a big free-throw shooting team,” Bluder said. “Sometimes it becomes mental, somebody’s missing then and you keep seeing it over and over. I was impressed with the way our captains and seniors came back to practice on Monday…I thought their ability to come back and work hard, be positive, and be focused was really good.”

Iowa shot 76 percent on free-throws in the win over Princeton, with 19 of its total points coming from the line. Princeton met that with only nine of its points coming off of free-throws.

Additionally, ball security paid dividends for Iowa down the stretch. Iowa turned the ball over six times in the first quarter alone, but the team slowed down and only committed nine turnovers in the next 35 minutes of play.

“They do a great job of helping,” Bluder said. “They’re excellent [in drives] at creating help…We just got used to it, got used to where the help was coming from and understood it a little better.”

It doesn’t hurt when your stars produce, either. Meyer and Kathleen Doyle finished with a combined 40 points on the night. Doyle racked up nine assists and Meyer went 5-for-10 from 3-point range.

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