By John Bohnenkamp
IOWA CITY — Iowa took care of business on a day when the Hawkeyes were supposed to be playing a different opponent.
Business is about to pick up.
The No. 25 Hawkeyes’ 82-56 win over Illinois on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was a game put together just a few days earlier. Iowa was supposed to play No. 6 Indiana, but COVID-19 issues with the Hoosiers forced a postponement.
Since the Hawkeyes and Illini were supposed to play later in the season in another makeup game after a January 2 postponement, and since neither was going to play on Sunday, it was a chance to make another schedule rearrangement.
The Illini (6-11 overall, 1-5 Big Ten) weren’t quite the test the Hoosiers would have been.
It was how the Hawkeyes played that was the biggest thing.
Iowa (12-4, 6-1) moved within a half-game of Indiana at the top of the standings, winning its fifth consecutive game.
This game was never close. The Hawkeyes scored 11 of the first 13 points, led 19-5 at the end of the first quarter, and 41-19 at halftime.
“I think we kind of came out gunning,” said center Monika Czinano, who had 10 of the Hawkeyes’ first 15 points and ended up with a game-high 21 points.
Iowa had 54 points inside.
“We owned the paint,” coach Lisa Bluder said. “I love that paint number.”
The ease of the game is something Bluder appreciated. The Hawkeyes play four of their next five games on the road, beginning with Tuesday’s makeup game at Penn State.
No player logged more than 26 minutes.
“To not have to play anybody over 30 minutes was important,” Bluder said. “We have one prep day for Penn State, and then get on the road. It’s a lot. I thought we really managed our minutes today, and I’m glad we were able to do that.”
The Hawkeyes, who opened the season as a top-10 team in the national rankings, lost their rhythm after having three games canceled in late December along with the two postponements against Penn State and Illinois after the Christmas break. They seem to have gotten that rhythm back.
“I think it is important to keep that consistency going,” Bluder said. “We need to make up games. It’s never going to be the best situation. We’re going to Penn State on a one-day prep. That’s not ideal. But if we want to get the game in, we’re going to have to do those type of things.”
Iowa was coming off a 105-49 win at Minnesota on Thursday.
“I think we came out strong,” Czinano said. “I think we’ve done a good job of moving on, game-to-game. We could have easily let the high from Minnesota leak into this, come into this a little bit slower. But we didn’t do that. We wiped it off, we came in clean, and I’m really proud of the whole group.”
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, the nation’s leading scorer at 26.2 points per game, just missed her third consecutive triple-double. She finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Tomi Taiwo had 14 points off the bench for the Hawkeyes, including four in the span of four seconds when she scored on a layup, stole the inbounds pass, and scored on another layup.
“I didn’t even see the play,” Bluder said to Taiwo, laughing. “I’ll have to watch it on film.”
Kylie Feuerbach added 10 for the Hawkeyes.
Photo: Iowa’s Kylie Feuerbach drives to the basket during Sunday’s game against Illinois. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)