All-Big Ten Conference player Maggie Lucas and the rest of her No. 15 ranked Penn State women’s basketball team were bigger, stronger and just plain better than the 22nd Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Lucas finished with a game-high 27 points and four other Nittany Lions reached double figures as Penn State dominated the glass, inside the lane and in pretty much all facets of the game during an 87-71 Big Ten Conference victory.
After the game, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder was candid and honest about the game and the fact that her Hawkeyes are just not as a good as Penn State, the favorites to win another Big Ten title.
“We got beat by a very good team today,” Bluder said. “I want to congratulate Penn State. I thought they played very well. They are big, they are strong, they are fast, and probably better than us in all those areas.”
Lucas’ 27 points was supported by Dara Taylor’s 17 and Talia East recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The taller Nittany Lions (10-3, 1-0) out-rebounded Iowa 50-34 and had a 16-1 second-chance point advantage. Tori Waldner had eight rebounds and 10 points, while Ariel Edwards finished with 11 points in the win.
“When you're that big and strong, it's hard to box them out,” Bluder said. “It's hard to keep them off the glass. In the first half we got some over the back calls because we had good position and we kind of got away from that.”
Iowa (12-4, 0-2) was led by Melissa Dixon’s 22 points and Sam Logic added 13 points and 12 assists, but Iowa never led and turned it over 18 times on its home floor.
The bench also continues to struggle as the Hawkeye reserves accounted for just nine points, eight of which came from freshman Ally Disterhoft.
Theairra Taylor had 10 points, Kali Peschel scored nine and Bethany Doolittle ended up with just eight as the 6-foot-4 junior center took just six shots and grabbed just four boards.
The Hawkeyes were outscored by eight in each half.
“Our last four or five games, we've had really slow starts,” said Bluder. “And so we talked about it as a team, how we can change it, and we tried even changing our warm up today, our pregame routine, did some things like that. But didn't really help a whole lot.”
Iowa got to within two a few times in the second half and even trailed by one with just less than 16 minutes to play but couldn’t get over the hump. Penn State took back momentum for good with a 7-0 run that put the Nittany Lions up nine.
Logic buried a 3 that cut Iowa’s deficit to three but a 12-4 run by Penn State extended the lead to 12 with around 5 to play. The advantage was never less than nine the rest of the way.
“We got within three with nine minutes to go in this game, and they took it at us after that,” Bluder said. “We got close, and then boom, they would have this little run and we'd try to close it in. The last few minutes, I think we just didn't have a whole lot left in us.”
Iowa will look to get back on track at 7 p.m. Wednesday when the Hawkeyes welcome Minnesota to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They travel to Wisconsin on Sunday. Tip off for that one is set for noon.
“We're not going to be able to change a whole lot in two days,” said Bluder. “Minnesota is a team that runs tons of plays, and it's going to need a lot of focus, a lot of focus to be able to defend their plays.”
If Bluder can change one thing moving forward about the way her team plays, it’s on the glass. The Hawkeyes have really been beaten badly on the boards in the first two games of the conference season. In both losses, Iowa has surrendered double-digit offensive rebounds and double-figure second-chance points.
“We gave up 16 offensive second-chance points, 16-1,” Bluder said. “We got beat by 16, and the margin of offense of second-chance points is 15. So if we can just clear one thing, in my opinion, it would be the box outs.”
Dixon knows the Big Ten season is long. The first step moving forward is to learn from the loss and find a way to bounce back in front of the home fans.
"The Big Ten is a long season, so we have to learn for this loss and bounce back against a tough Minnesota team," Dixon said. "We need to learn from what we did wrong (Sunday) and take away some of the positives going into Wednesday."