Focused defensive effort helps Iowa women’s basketball to victory over Iowa State

The No. 16 Hawkeyes allowed just 57 Cyclone points in their first ranked win of the season on Wednesday.


Grace Smith

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark hypes up the crowd during a women’s basketball game between No. 10 Iowa and No. 12 NC State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Clark’s last 40-point game was against Evansville in the 2021-22 season with 44 points. The Wolfpack defeated the Hawkeyes, 94-81.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

The Iowa women’s basketball team always knew it could be good at defense.

The Hawkeyes thought their skills in practice could eventually translate to the game on the Carver-Hawkeye Arena court.

“We go against our practice boys and we know we can play great defense,” junior guard Caitlin Clark said. “They’re very, very skilled. It’s just coming into the game and showing we can do that.”

But the Hawkeyes just needed “a kick in the butt” to make more of a defensive effort.

No. 16 Iowa took down No. 10 Iowa State, 70-57, on Wednesday — six days after it allowed 94 points in a loss to NC State. The Hawkeyes’ 57 allowed points is their lowest total against a Power Five opponent so far this season.

Iowa’s win over Iowa State moves the Hawkeyes to 1-2 against ranked opponents this season — Iowa lost to No. 3 UConn, 86-79, on Nov. 27, and to No. 12 NC State, 94-81, on Dec. 1.

“Our offense was completely fine,” Clark said of the NC State game. “It was just the fact that we couldn’t get stops on the defensive end. I think when we took it a little more to heart this game, we really bought into defense. You know, it’s fun getting stops. It’s fun getting five-second calls, it’s fun forcing turnovers. It did hurt us a little bit, but maybe it was a kick in the butt that we needed going forward.”

Coming into the game against the Cyclones, the Hawkeyes averaged 70.9 points allowed per game — 294th out of 350 Division I women’s basketball teams. 

The Hawkeyes had six days and one game in between their matchups with NC State and Iowa State — Iowa took down Wisconsin, 102-71, on Sunday. Ahead of their third ranked matchup of the season on Wednesday, head coach Lisa Bluder urged her team to have a focused defensive effort.

And that focus paid off.

“I’m extremely happy with our defense this game,” Bluder said. “I thought our team played with such energy and such focus. I mean, they knew their personnel, they knew their Scout really well and they just did an unbelievable job defensively.”

The Hawkeyes had close attention to detail to the scouting report — including 6-foot-6 Cyclone forward Stephanie Soares.

Soares, who averages 15.5 points a game, was held to 10 on Wednesday night. She also finished the game with four fouls, limiting her minutes in the final quarter.

“We have people who really understand the scout, like coach Bluder said,” senior center Monika Czinano, who mainly guarded Soares, said. “We’re coming to double, and we’re able to get some turnovers on that. Just kind of causing a little bit of chaos in there is huge for us.”

The Hawkeyes started out slow on the offensive end, and went into halftime down, 28-23. But Bluder said with the defensive effort the Hawkeyes were giving, she knew the shots were going to fall in the second half.

Three Hawkeyes finished the game in double figures on Wednesday: Clark led all scorers with 19, Czinano registered 18, and senior guard Kate Martin recorded 13. Czinano also finished the game with her eighth career double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds. 

“When you play defense like that, and then you execute on offense with that many weapons, it’s going to be hard to beat,” Clark said.