Iowa women’s basketball bench critical in victory over Illinois

The Hawkeye bench contributed 26 points in Iowa’s 82-56 victory over Illinois on Sunday.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa guard Tomi Taiwo attempts a 3-pointer during a women’s basketball game between Iowa and Samford at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Taiwo shot 2-3 from outside the arc. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bulldogs 91-54.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder missed the moment that made the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd go wild on Sunday night.

Bluder was talking to her bench when senior guard Tomi Taiwo made a layup, stole an inbounded ball from the Illini, and made another layup — all within a four-second span.

The senior out of Carmel, Indiana, said she didn’t plan the steal in the No. 25 Hawkeyes’ 82-56 rout of Illinois. It was just something that happened in the heat of the moment.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Taiwo said. “I mean, the offense was kind of stagnant at that moment. Driving to the basket is always something that you can control, even if your shots aren’t falling.

“Actually, what happened was when they passed it to her inbounds, I just thought, ‘Well, she isn’t looking,’ and I was behind her, so I just swiped it,” she added. “It wasn’t really like a film thing, but it worked out for me.” 

Although Bluder didn’t see the play in real time, she isn’t worried about seeing Taiwo’s performance.

“I missed it,” Bluder said. “But I’ll watch it on film.”

Taiwo sparked Iowa’s offense, putting in 14 points off the bench in 17 minutes.  

The Hawkeyes had two bench players in double figures on Sunday as sophomore guard Kylie Feuerbach produced 10 points in 23 minutes of play.

“I love that we have four people in double figures, two of them coming off the bench,” Bluder said. “I thought Tomi and Kylie both played really well coming in off the bench today.”

Senior center Monika Czinano and sophomore point guard Caitlin Clark put in 21 and 18 points for the Hawkeyes, respectively, as starters.

All 10 available Hawkeyes saw at least five minutes on the court on Sunday, and eight scored. Freshman Sydney Affolter didn’t score, but she grabbed four rebounds and one assist.

For Iowa, solid bench production is critical. 

Iowa has four losses this season. In those four losses, the bench has registered a combined 16 points: two against Duke, four against Iowa State, zero against Northwestern, and 10 against IUPUI.

Against Illinois on Sunday, Iowa had 26 points off the bench.

“I think the bench is very important because if you look at some of our losses or games that have been closer, the bench didn’t really produce as well as we could have,” Taiwo said. “I think it’s always important to just come off and have a good spark of energy in any way that you can. Whether it’s scoring, rebounding, or getting steals. I think bench production really helps the team as a whole.”

Iowa is now on a five-game winning streak, and faces a quick turnaround as it travels to Penn State for a Tuesday game. The Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions will tip off at 5 p.m. and the game will be aired on Big Ten Network.

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