Hawkeyes maintain composure against physical Rutgers team

Iowa women’s basketball defeated Rutgers, 90-84, Thursday afternoon to move to 2-1 in Big Ten play.


Kate Heston

Iowa Guards Kate Martin (left), Caitlin Clark (middle), and Monika Czinano signal to their teammates during a women’s basketball game between Iowa and Iowa State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 9,2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones in a close game, 82-80.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

After an eight-day break, Iowa women’s basketball won a close game against Rutgers, 90-84, on New Year’s Eve to maintain its 41-game home win streak. With the win, the Hawkeyes move to 6-1 on the season and 2-1 in Big Ten play.

Prior to their matchup with Rutgers, Iowa’s last game came Dec. 22 against Western Illinois, and whatever worries head coach Lisa Bluder had about the team’s rustiness were washed away Thursday.

“I’m really proud of our team, we haven’t played for a long time,” Bluder said. “You never know coming out of a break like that …  if you’re going to be rusty or not. We shot the ball so well, and I’m just really thrilled.”

Even after the long break, the Hawkeyes didn’t miss a beat from tipoff to the final buzzer. In the first ten minutes of the game, Iowa scored 28 points and held Rutgers to just 12.

The Hawkeyes’ impressive first quarter can be partially attributed to the efforts of sophomore forward McKenna Warnock, who scored 12 of Iowa’s 25 points in the opening quarter. All of Warnock’s points were produced behind the arc.

After the hot start, the Hawkeyes stumbled in second quarter, recording nine turnovers in ten minutes, allowing Rutgers to climb back into the game on the heels of a 28-14 run.

“The second quarter was bad for us,” Bluder said. “We got a little bit of panicky, a little antsy trying to inbound the ball against their pressure, but then in the second half, I thought the team approached it much better.”

The Hawkeyes surrendered the lead once – briefly in the third quarter – but the Scarlet Knights were always threatening, keeping the game within single-digits throughout the second half.

As the final buzzer sounded, Iowa’s margin of victory was just six points, proving the importance of the Hawkeyes’ 12-of-13 shooting day from the free throw line.

“We knew they were going to foul [at the end of the game],” freshman point guard Caitlin Clark said. “So just dribble, take care of the ball, and expect the foul. And then go to the free throw line confident and know you can knock them down.”

In her first matchup against a physical Rutgers team, Clark recorded 28 points, six rebounds, and six assists.

“I think we did a great job, and I give kudos to a lot of other girls,” Warnock said. “I don’t really bring the ball up very much, and I see them putting in that very hard work, and I think they did an amazing job with it. Also, a big shoutout to Caitlin, she’s just a freshman, never seen that type of pressure before, and I think she did really well.”

All five of Iowa’s starters ended the night with double-digit scoring, and Warnock finished the game one rebound short of a double-double, posting 18 points and nine boards.

Last season, Rutgers defeated Iowa in overtime in Piscataway, New Jersey. This year, the Hawkeyes maintained their composure despite the Scarlet Knights’ physicality.

“Looking back to last year, I think we were flustered a lot of the game, and that’s what let us go into overtime,” junior center Monika Czinano said. “We just had to make sure we stayed composed, we couldn’t really do anything about the refs or the calls that we were getting, and we knew going in that Rutgers was a very physical team, so I think the main thing we could do is keep our composure.”

The Hawkeyes will return to the court Jan. 3 for a date with Illinois in Champaign. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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