No. 9 Iowa women’s basketball ready to debut new-look defense

After allowing 80.6 points per game last season, the Hawkeyes made mental and schematic changes to their defense ahead of 2021-22.


Grace Smith

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark shoots outside the three-point line during an exhibition women’s basketball game between Iowa and Truman State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bulldogs 102-32. Clark shot 4-8 from outside the arc.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

The revamped Iowa women’s basketball defense will face its first real test Tuesday night against New Hampshire.

In the 2020-21 season, the Hawkeyes focused on their second-in-the-nation offense, averaging 86.1 points per game. Defense was at the back of Iowa’s mind — sophomore point guard Caitlin Clark said no matter how many points the opponent scored, the Hawkeyes always knew they could score more.

That strategy failed in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, as Iowa fell to UConn, 92-72, and was knocked out of the tournament.

The No. 9 Hawkeyes made schematic changes to their ailing defense over the offseason — one that ranked 336th out of 336 teams in Division I Women’s Basketball, allowing an average of 80.6 points per game.

Now, the Hawkeyes are ready to debut their new-look defense.

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“We really talk about forcing hard twos, having great help side defense, finishing with a box out, and getting rebounds,” junior guard Kate Martin said at Iowa women’s basketball media day Oct. 28. “So, I mean, once we can help each other on defense, have great help side, force tough shots and then finish with the rebound, I think that’s what we’ve been working on really hard. And I think you’re going to see that out of us more this year.”

Iowa got a taste of its new defensive abilities on Nov. 4, when it took down Division II Truman State in an exhibition at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 102-32. 

The Hawkeyes held the Bulldogs to 10-of-65 shooting and an 8.6 percent 3-point shooting percentage. Iowa also grabbed 60 rebounds, but just 11 offensive boards.

“I think it really sets the tone for the season, even if it wasn’t the best offensive team that we’re playing,” sophomore point guard Caitlin Clark said on Nov. 8.  “I think we definitely saw some improvements, and a will to be great on defense. I think with games starting this week, we’re going to see a real measurement of where we are.”

Although Truman State wasn’t a high-major, Division I school, head coach Lisa Bluder saw tangible improvements in the Hawkeyes’ defense. Along with schematic changes, the Hawkeyes shifted their mentality to put defense at the forefront of their minds.

“We kept our intensity, we kept our focus, we kept our energy,” Bluder said on Nov. 8. “Sometimes those things are hard to do when you have a big lead, especially in the defense event where it just requires sheer energy and desire to get it done. So, I was happy with that.” 

Iowa and New Hampshire have never met before Tuesday’s matchup. The Wildcats, part of the America East Conference, averaged 53.8 points per game in the 2020-21 season and are returning all five starters.

The Hawkeyes and Wildcats will face off at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 6 p.m.