Deep rotation sparks Hawkeyes down the Big Ten stretch

Iowa's bench contributed 42 points in a dominant showing against Penn State.


Nichole Harris

Iowa guard McKenna Warnock takes a shot while Wisconsin guard Sydney Hilliard tries to block during a women’s basketball between Iowa and Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers 97-71.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

As Iowa closes out a grueling stretch to the Big Ten season, players have become banged up and tired with the heavy schedule. However, Iowa’s bench continues to lighten the load on the starters. That was the case in Saturday’s game against Penn State.

Iowa arguably performed its worst in the first quarter, when the team consistently turned the ball over, and Penn State kept the game competitive. The team had five turnovers in the first quarter and shot its worst out of all four quarters.

When Iowa reserve players started to contribute, Iowa extended its lead.

The usual contributors off the bench like Gabbie Marshall and Mckenna Warnock were effective once again, but players such as Kate Martin and Zion Sanders had great efforts as well.

Marshall’s nine-point effort was one of her best performances of late, and her 3-point shooting could be game changing when March rolls around. The freshman has had her struggles throughout her freshman season but has learned a lot through this year’s senior class.

“The seniors are so encouraging, and it’s nice to watch from some of the best in the Big Ten, so that just made it that much easier,” Marshall said. “I’ve just been trying to do my role and do whatever I can whenever I’m on the court.”

Sanders had a great game on both sides of the ball, recording a team-high four steals along with four points and three rebounds in 14 minutes of action. Her steals were a big reason why Iowa managed to get an impressive 30 points off 22 turnovers.

The game continues a theme of the team’s bench players stepping up. Although many of Saturday’s key bench performers will not be featured much come tournament time, they’ve made it known the bench will contribute whenever it is called upon.

“You play three games in three days at the Big Ten tournament,” Bluder said. “It’s important to have people you know can step in and have the confidence to step in and do well.”

Not only can the bench depth be key for the rest of the season, but gives the team hope in the future that those players can step up.

The game gave Iowa a chance to rest its starters, as no player tallied over 26 minutes of playing time. This comes at a perfect time to extend the team’s essential rest week before the team finishes up the season. With no midweek games plus what could be described as a stroll, the team should be energized going into next week.

“I think this time of year it’s like you need less reps and more rest,” Bluder said. “For us to be able to have five people coming off the bench and at double figures in minutes, that’s really big.”

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