By John Bohnenkamp
Three seconds will haunt the Iowa women’s basketball team over the Christmas break.
The 74-73 loss to IUPUI at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday afternoon is one the Hawkeyes will have to think about for a while.
Iowa (6-3) led by 18 points in the third quarter and by 15 points going into the fourth quarter. But IUPUI (5-2) outscored the Hawkeyes 27-11 the rest of the way.
Rachel McLimore’s two free throws with 3.1 seconds left gave the Jaguars their only lead of the game. The Hawkeyes had two chances to win the game, but Monika Czinano’s shot in the lane missed, and Kate Martin couldn’t get a shot off after getting the rebound.
“They only led for three seconds,” Bluder said. “They were the most important three seconds.”
The Hawkeyes haven’t quite recovered after a two-week layoff because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the program. They were 5-0 before, 1-3 since. And they don’t play again until a December 30 game at Penn State.
“Obviously we’ve got some work to do, and figure it out,” Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes looked crisp for most of the game, then stagnant and lifeless when they should have been closing out a win.
“We’re a whole lot better than that,” said guard Caitlin Clark, who had 19 points.
That stagnation showed, Bluder said, when she looked at the final statistics and saw the Hawkeyes shot just two free throws in the second half.
“To shoot two free throws in the last 20 minutes, we’ve got to get to the rim, get the ball inside,” she said.
Iowa was just 4-of-12 from the field in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes shot 46 percent for the game, but were just 4-of-22 in 3-pointers.
“We’re not shooting the three well, and I can’t explain it,” Bluder said. “I watch the film, and think, oh, we had maybe three or four bad ones. But for the most part, they’re threes we make in practice. And that’s frustrating.”
Iowa’s defense couldn’t handle IUPUI forward Macee Williams, who had 15 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars were 7-of-13 from the field, 3-of-5 in 3-pointers, in the fourth quarter.
“They hit a lot of shots, and our defense wasn’t good enough,” Clark said.
Bluder said with IUPUI hitting 10 3-pointers in the game, it was hard to keep a double-team on Williams.
“We knew we needed post help,” she said. “But when they’re as good of 3-point shooters as they are, it’s hard to give that post help. They were hard to guard because of that.”
Czinano led the Hawkeyes with 23 points.
It took more than 40 minutes for Bluder and Clark to come to the post-game press conference.
“I think, for us, it’s really making the choice to do better, to be better, in all areas of the game” Clark said. “We can be so much better. We’ve showed that in practice. I just think there’s so much to learn from.
“I still believe in this team, no matter what. And I know Coach Bluder does.”
The break, Clark said, will be about resetting for the rest of the Big Ten season ahead.
“That’s really all we can do,” she said. “And I know we will.”