Lisa Bluder challenged her team to be better. On Thursday night, her Hawkeyes put up just 58 points and lost their first game of the season to Kansas State. 72 hours later, Iowa took the floor to face a Drake team that took them to overtime at the Knapp Center last year. They had two choices. Be better or potentially lose a second straight game. They chose option A and put up a school record 64 first half points en route to a 113-90 win over the Bulldogs.
“I just didn’t think we were very disciplined running our offense and just paying attention to details and being focused (against KSU),” said head coach Lisa Bluder. “We got back to that tonight.”
Defense was optional early in the game for both teams, but it was clear that the Hawkeyes were locked in from the moment the ball was tipped off. Drake got off to a 16-14 start through just 4:41, but a 9-0 run from Iowa put them in front. A three-pointer and back-to-back baskets from Sharon Goodman gave them a 23-16 lead. After taking just three shots against K-State, Goodman scored 15 points on 7/11 shooting. Although she fouled out of the game, Lisa Bluder was happy with her physicality.
“Sharon has been doing a really good job for us and I like that we have three posts that we can throw at people,” said Bluder. “It’s 15 fouls. I told Sharon when she was coming out of the game. Hey, why take them home with you? Be physical.”
In the opening quarter, Drake shot 10/19 (52.6%) from the floor and scored 24 points, but Iowa bested them, as they shot 15/20 (75.0%) from the floor in the first, including three-pointers late in the quarter from Kylie Feuerbach and Caitlin Clark to make 37-24.
“We just didn’t get in a groove against Kansas State and again, they are very good. We might play them again next Sunday,” said Bluder. “I felt like we’d have an opportunity to really go after Drake’s matchup zone and I thought we did a good job of picking that apart.”
The Bulldogs were able to match the Hawkeyes pace in the first half for the most part and kept things within striking distance. A layup from Taylor McAulay cut the Iowa lead to 47-37, but Sharon Goodman answered on the other end with an offensive rebound, putback, plus the foul. That kicked started a run that put the lead at a very comfortable level going into the locker room. A couple of three-pointers from Taylor McCabe and a pair of baskets from Caitlin Clark capped off a 17-4 run that put Iowa up 64-41 at the half. 64 is the most in a half in program history.
“Coach Bluder challenged us when we came to practice after the K-State loss and I thought everybody responded really well,” said Caitlin Clark. “It was fun. I thought we could have played a little better defense. The offense they run is really good. It challenges you to communicate and I still thought there were a lot of ways where we could have improved.”
Drake went on a 14-7 run to begin the second half and that chipped the lead down to 16 points, but Caitlin Clark knocked down a three-pointer to cut the Bulldogs momentum. The lead never got below 17 points the rest of the way and allowed for some fun things to happen.
After scoring 0 points in the loss to Kansas State, Kate Martin responded in a big way for the Hawkeyes. She had 11 points in the first half and seven points in the third quarter to put herself within range to set a new career-high. Early in the fourth quarter, she set a new career-high with a short jumper and added on with a three-pointer 50 seconds later to give her 25 points on 10/12 shooting. The veteran stepped up and made a big impact after a tough outing.
“I just shot it with confidence tonight. All week, my teammates have been building me up. All the coaches have been building me up. It’s not fun to not make a three in the first three or four games, but I’m just glad I could step up tonight,” said Martin. “I think in their matchup zone, corners and short corners were really vulnerable and I was getting the ball down there and just drove it to the hole. It just worked for me.”
As for Caitlin Clark, she came into the night shooting just 28.2% from three-point range. After starting 1/7, Clark knocked down four straight to end the game and even picked up seven steals on the defensive end of the floor. She was trying to get the crowd involved even up by 20 points and it, at least for the time being, appears that she has got her shooting back in order.
“It felt good to see a few go through the rim. Couple in transition and that’s where I like to thrive, so it was fun to have those moments,” said Clark. As for her seven steals? “They just kept falling into my hands. I thought my defense was a little better tonight. I thought I just played with more energy.”
Caitlin Clark led the way for the Hawkeyes with 35 points, six rebounds, ten assists and seven steals, but Kate Martin added 25 points, four rebounds and three assists. Sharon Goodman had 15 points, while Molly Davis had ten points, two threes and three assists.
“I think (Molly) has been really good,” said Caitlin. “She’s not going to shy away from the moment. That’s somebody that has a lot of experience playing basketball…When she plays with that confidence, she’s a really, really great player.”
Hannah Stuelke noticeably played just 13 minutes and finished with just four points. Lisa Bluder said that she banged up her knee against Kansas State and felt like some extra rest would do her well going into three games in three days over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Up Next, the Hawkeyes travel to Estero, Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase next week. Their first round matchup is set for Friday evening against the Purdue-Fort Wayne Mastadons. Tipoff is set for 6:30pm CT and will be streamed on FloHoops.