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The sweetness of Sweet 16

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | MARCH 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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In the kind of game it has lost on more than one occasion this season, the Iowa women’s basketball team managed a win.

Overcoming both an athletic Miami team as well as a poor shooting performance in the first half, the Black and Gold held on to down the Hurricanes, 88-70, and advance into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

“We beat an excellent team today,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said.  “They beat a lot of good teams during the year, and Katie [Hurricane head coach Meier] had them well-coached, but I was happy with the way we came out and won.”

Though they were playing more than 800 miles from their home court, the Hurricanes set the tone early in Carver-Hawkeye on Sunday afternoon.

Using a combination of size, physicality, skill, and break-neck speed, the Hurricanes overwhelmed the Hawkeyes during much of the first half.

Aggressive defense in the post by forward Erykah Davenport as well as heavy pressure from the Hurricane frontcourt had the Hawks looking out of sorts.

And had either team shot even halfway well from the field in the first, the game would have probably have been out of hand early.

Shooting an uncharacteristic 36.4 percent in the first half, including just 2-of-4 from beyond the 3-point line, the Hawks failed to gain a consistent edge in outside shooting.

However, the ’Canes had their struggles as well, with more than a few possessions of dominating ball movement and outstanding individual efforts that failed to yield points because of a frustrating lack of finish around the rim.

Sloppy all the way around in the first half, which squad could put together a more consistent second half become the favorite to win. 

Luckily for the fans in attendance, the Black and Gold finally rediscovered their game in the second, going on to pull away for the 18-point victory.

“The beauty of our team is that if you take away one option, I have four other teammates who are going to be waiting with good looks,” senior Melissa Dixon said.  “You can’t take away everything on our team.”

The Hawks shot 75 percent in the second half to out-gun the Hurricanes and earn their second victory of the NCAA Tournament.  

Big 3s from Dixon and junior Kali Peschel inflated the Iowa lead and pumped up the crowd, while a dominating performance from senior Beth Doolittle proved to be the game-changer. 

An in-bounds block by Doolittle late in the game that would have cut Iowa’s lead to 4 instead extended it to 8.

“That play probably more than any other was the turning point for them,” Miami’s Meier said. “It could have been a 4-point swing, and then she comes back and hits a jumper right in our face.”

Doolittle was more than happy to take advantage of the time and space afforded to her by the Hurricanes Sunday. 

“I don’t think you can ever predict where you’re going to get shots,” Doolittle said, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds.  “I just tried to take what was given to me, and my teammates were able to find me in the right places.”

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


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