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Cherish the rock, Hawks learn

BY KYLE MANN | MARCH 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Hawkeyes fell short of a Big Ten championship over the weekend, but they still have high expectations for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. To avoid a similarly disappointing departure, the Hawkeyes will have to learn from the Big Ten Tournament. Here’s a deeper look into what they need to do.

Iowa must take care of the ball

Head coach Lisa Bluder’s teams have always been smart and efficient offensively, particularly in how they handle and share the ball. The Hawkeyes led the conference this season in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4:1 and also in assists with 18.3 per game. They also finished third in turnover margin, which is what makes their woes at the Sears Center all the more perplexing.

Bluder will lose sleep this week knowing that in two games, her team had 36 assists and 39 turnovers.

The turnover ratio this weekend was terrible and alone would have plummeted the Hawkeyes to 10th in the conference. Even in the quarterfinal victory over Nebraska, Iowa had more turnovers (20) than assists (16).

“I thought we had too many unforced turnovers in the first half; our feet got happy,” Bluder said. “We need to just calm down, slow down; I thought we were getting a little too anxious in those situations. And I thought we gave the ball to Sam [Logic] in some awkward positions on outlet passes.”

Iowa then had 20 assists and 19 turnovers against Ohio State, a slight improvement but not the typical masterful performance that allows the offense to overcome the team’s deficiencies elsewhere.

“It’s uncharacteristic of us; the last two games we had too many turnovers,” Bluder said after the loss. “We’ve got to get back and figure out why it happened the last two nights, because it obviously hurts you in tight games. The turnovers the first half, the boxing out the second half was the story of our demise.”

The Hawkeyes must do a better job of maintaining a constant post presence.

It was a topic of discussion all throughout the season, but became indubitably validated by Iowa’s late-season struggles against Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B., and the impressive frontcourt for Ohio State.

The only two teams to drop the Hawkeyes consecutively this season, Iowa narrowly avoided the Gophers in the quarterfinal but wasn’t so lucky with the Buckeyes in the semifinals. When Iowa’s best two-way post player — Bethany Doolittle — ran into foul trouble for the second time in as many games, the lack of post-scoring and depth of rebounders again came to the forefront.

Doolittle was in foul trouble from get-go against Nebraska, but Claire Till did an admirable job filling in. The same, however, couldn’t be said against Ohio State. Doolittle only had three fouls, which wasn’t as noticeable as the previous game but still caused her to play the least minutes of any starter.

Doolittle led the team with 8 rebounds, but the team was overwhelmed by the physicality and outrebounded, 47-41. With the incessant turnovers, struggles rebounding, and bereft of another back-to-the-basket scorer the Hawkeyes found it difficult coming across easy buckets.

“We didn’t run our offense and look for a good, high-percentage shot,” Bluder said. “We kind of forced up some quick shots, and that’s not what you want to do.”

Silver Lining: Iowa had strong performances off the bench

Kali Peschel was 3-of-5 from beyond the arc in each game, going for 13 points and 4 rebounds against Nebraska, and 12 points and 4 rebounds against Ohio State. Till had 8 rebounds in 15 minutes against Nebraska, but she received only seven minutes in the second game in favor of Peschel’s range versus the Buckeyes.

Bluder relies heavily on her five starters, but the glimpse of capable bench contributors is encouraging entering the NCAA Tournament.

“I thought Kali Peschel came in and did a great job for us; Claire Till came in and got 8 rebounds and also took a couple charges,” Bluder said. “That was really nice to see.”

Follow @KyleFMann on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.


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