Women's basketball: The Box Score

BY MATT CABEL | JANUARY 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s basketball team has had its share of triumphs and losses through six games of their Big Ten schedule, and has a split record of 3-3 to show for it. The stats show success, with the team leading the Big Ten in multiple categories. This begs the question: what changes, or what are teams doing to stop the Hawkeyes, in its losses?

Bethany Doolittle: 14.6 points per game

With the bevy of points the Hawkeyes are known to score, it may seem as if the team may live and die by the three. While the team places emphasis on shots beyond the arc, Iowa’s wins have started and ended under the basket with center Bethany Doolittle.

It seems that Doolittle’s transition from power forward back to center was a smart decision by head coach Lisa Bluder. The junior has the most height on the team, and her time at power forward increased her scoring range, stretching the floor for Iowa, and bringing in double digit scoring every game.

Against Michigan State, Logic partially blamed herself for the loss by not feeding the ball to Doolittle enough under the basket. Despite Doolittle’s 21 points on an extremely efficient 8-of-15 scoring, it wasn’t enough.

Doolittle frequently uses her 6’4" height to her advantage. And if the Hawkeyes continue to as well, more conference wins will come with it, along with the team’s ultimate goal: earning its seventh consecutive NCAA tournament bid, hosted in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Scoring Offense: 81.2 ppg (1st in the Big Ten); Scoring Margin: +12.2 (2nd in Big Ten)

Iowa has proven itself to be a team capable of scoring points in bunches. They have only been held to less than 70 points in one of their 20 games so far in the season, in a win against Northern Iowa when they scored 67. They have scored 90+ points four different times so far this season, and even scored 102 against UNC-Wilmington in the final match of the Cancun Challenge.

The Hawkeyes feature five players, Sam Logic, Melissa Dixon, Theairra Taylor, Ally Disterhoft and Bethany Doolittle, who are averaging double-figure points per game. Despite its lack of depth, this is a team that is designed to score a lot of points, and when they do, they do it big.

When they are putting up these kinds of numbers, the Hawkeyes are also winning big, usually by a 12 point average. On Jan. 8, Iowa defeated Minnesota, 78-71, won 82-65 when they traveled to Wisconsin on Jan. 12, and on Jan. 18, the team defeated Ohio State, 81-74 — victories by 7, 17 and 7, respectively.

Iowa’s Big Ten wins have been heavy, in a sense. But so have its losses.

Big Ten losses: at Indiana, Penn State, Michigan State 

Indiana, Penn State and Michigan State averaged scoring 87 points in their victories over Iowa. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, averaged 76 points per game, 5 less than normal and an 11 point differential, in their Big Ten losses. Besides the Hawks two point loss to Indiana, the Hawkeyes’ other two Big Ten losses have been by double-digit margins.

What, then, are teams doing differently to stop the Hawkeyes in these situations? Against Penn State, it came down to size and depth, two things the Hawkeyes struggle with, particularly after losing backup center Nicole Smith before the beginning of the season to a knee injury.

The Hawkeyes were able to keep the game close near the end of the first half and at the beginning of the second half, but the Lady Lions’ size in the post and ability to constantly substitute fresh bodies proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Hawkeyes in the 87-71 loss.

Michigan State was able to defeat the Hawkeyes by establishing themselves as the aggressors offensively. The Spartans led by as many as 29 points in the game, and kept its lead to 20 any time the Hawkeyes tried to force a comeback.

The Spartan’s main strategy was to prevent the Hawkeyes from getting into an offensive rhythm, and it worked, resulting in the team’s worst performance of the season. Should Iowa want to find success against teams near the top of the Big Ten, players will need to get into the game quickly. And for the Hawkeyes, it all starts under the basket.

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