By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
IOWA CITY — Iowa was the best free-throw shooting team in women’s basketball last season.
This season has been different.
The Hawkeyes came into Sunday’s home game against Northern Iowa shooting 73.8 percent from the line, almost 11 percentage points less than last season.
It didn’t look that way when they got to the line in the 88-74 win over the Panthers.
Iowa (9-3) was 28-of-31 in free throws on a day when the Hawkeyes’ shooting from everywhere else wasn’t the best.
“When your shots are not falling, (getting to the line) is a great thing to do,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
The 12th-ranked Hawkeyes drew 25 fouls — Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano drew nine each — in a game in which they shot 43.5 percent from the field, but just 27.3 percent in 3-pointers.
Clark, who finished with 26 points, was 6-of-17 from the field — 1-of-7 in 3-pointers — but 13-of-14 in free throws. Czinano, who led the nation in field-goal percentage the last two seasons, was 6-of-14 from the field, but 10-of-11 from the line, finishing with 22 points.
“We were the best free-throw shooting team in the country last year,” Clark said. “So that’s something we know we need to get to because we’re so good at making free throws
“I thought me and Monica did a really good job of getting there when maybe we didn’t really shoot our best, but still we’re able to get points for our team at the line.”
UNI (5-4) constantly sent double-teams at Czinano in the post, and while that limited her path to the basket, it created more contact.
“When teams choose to double, they’re going to foul more,” Czinano said. “That’s just kind of how it works when they’re physical like that.”
“You have to pick your poison because (Czinano) and Clark are so good,” UNI coach Tanya Warren said. “You know it you have to pick when you double, and we tried, but obviously she’s very good. She doesn’t put the basketball on the floor so it’s really hard to trap her. And she’s very efficient. But I thought we made both of them work for every point that they earned tonight.”
The Hawkeyes scored 26 points off 20 UNI turnovers, and that didn’t help the Panthers, either.
“I think we have a better shot (of winning),” Warren said when asked if fewer turnovers would have helped UNI get past all of the Hawkeyes’ free throws. “But you can’t have 20 turnovers, and most of those were live-ball. That stuff adds up.”
The Hawkeyes completed their sweep of their in-state rivals Drake, Iowa State and UNI, but all three games were different kinds of tests.
“When you think of the quality of competition in this state between Iowa State, UNI and Drake, to sweep them all is a tough thing to do,” Bluder said. “So I’m proud of the team for doing it.”
“We don’t have to play UNI, Drake and Iowa State, but we want to,” Clark said. “We want competition. I think the competition in our state is probably the best in the country.”
Grace Boffeli led UNI with 16 points. Maya McDermott had 15 points. Emerson Green added 11 points, and Kam Finley had 10.
Photo: Iowa’s Monika Czinano shoots in the second half of Sunday’s game against Northern Iowa. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)