Women’s Basketball Sidebar: Hawkeyes burn Wildcats from deep in victory

Kevin Trahan

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With her third 3-pointer of the night Thursday, Iowa guard Kamille Wahlin moved into second place on the Hawkeyes’ all-time 3-point scoring list. It was a fitting night for her to achieve that milestone, as her deadly shots from beyond the arc, along with those of the rest of the team, ultimately pushed Iowa to a 70-63 victory over Northwestern.

“That’s what Iowa does,” senior guard Allison Mocchi said.

The Hawkeyes did a lot of scoring from beyond the arc in the teams’ first meeting this season on Dec. 30, making 12 3-pointers en route to a blowout win. They made nine Thursday in a much closer game.

“It was definitely a huge improvement, from the last game (against Iowa) especially,” Mocchi said of NU’s 3-point defense, especially in transition.

The Wildcats hung around for much of the first half, just as they did in late December in Iowa City, Iowa, but allowed the Hawkeyes to go on a run at the end of the first half, leading to a 16-point halftime deficit. Despite mounting a comeback, NU could never fully recover.

“You can’t spot a team like Iowa, who is just such a dangerous offensive team, you can’t give them that many offensive opportunities in the first half,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We got it down to three or four in the last couple minutes; we had chances. They’re one of the best teams in the league.”

Iowa’s strong transition game and plethora of accurate shooters – it had four scorers in double digits Thursday – gave the Hawkeyes the ability to score in bunches. NU made transition defense a focal point in the practices leading up to Thursday night. However, the Cats ultimately couldn’t shut down Iowa’s fast-break game.

“They do it at a pace that’s hard to recreate in practice,” McKeown said. “That’s why they’re probably an NCAA Tournament team.”

Iowa used that strong transition game to make quick runs, including one before halftime and one at the end of the game. NU had to play sharp defensively for the entire game in order to stop the Hawkeyes’ runs, but the Cats lost focus on defense at times, negating the strong second-half comeback.

“We fought back really hard; we battled back,” Mocchi said. “It’s a huge credit to our team that we can battle back. We just have to put it together for 40 minutes.”

NU out-scored Iowa 41-32 in the second half – nearly double the Cats’ first half total of 22 – but couldn’t quite overcome the halftime deficit. Nevertheless, McKeown said he was proud of his team for fighting back.

“The second half was better (because) in the first half there was a stretch where they caught us,” he said. “In the second half they go 3-of-11 (from three), I thought we had a lot better closeouts, a lot better coverage and they had to work for (threes) more.”

With just one game left in the regular season – a home game Sunday against Michigan State – McKeown is focusing on the positives of his team’s performance, including the comeback and the unheralded statistics from his top players, such as freshman guard Morgan Jones’s eight rebounds and six assists.

“That’s the thing we have to continue over these next … however long,” McKeown said. “Whether we’re going into the Big Ten Tournament, going into Sunday or hopefully going into the postseason at some point.”