Good shots didn’t fall.
That was in essence what Tanya Warren stated on Sunday. Northern Iowa’s head coach felt like her offense was fine for most of the day, just couldn’t remove the lid off the bucket.
And it cost the Panthers against their most premier opponent on their schedule.
Ninth-ranked Iowa used a 21-2 run in the first quarter to take the lead and cruise by UNI 81-62 inside the McLeod Center to remain perfect on the season.
“In order to compete and beat Iowa, you have to be able to score,” Warren said. “We left a lot of buckets out there. We knew we were going to get good shots. They made open shots, we missed open shots.”
Having a defensive identity is new for the Hawkeyes. They were, statistically, one of the worst defensive teams in the country a season ago. They were able to hold UNI to four made field goals in the first 10 minutes.
“We need to rely on our defense especially when shots don’t fall,” Iowa guard Caitlin Clark said. “We’re more comfortable relying on that this year.”
There were stretches where the Panthers went cold from the field, but so did Iowa. Yet it came back to the latter’s defense that silenced the former from cutting into the gap.
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Warren gave credit to the Hawkeyes improved defense. So did the players.
“We just got to be able to knock down open shots in practice,” UNI guard Kam Finley said.
Down 41-24 entering the locker room, Finley scored nine straight to cut the Panthers deficit to 16. Yet that was a constant theme of coming close to making a game out of it, but not getting all the way there.
After Finley and Cailyn Morgan canned 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, it forced an Iowa timeout. Maya McDermott drilled a shot from behind the arc to make it a 13-point game entering the fourth.
“I thought we did things and every time we had an opportunity close to single digits, we would turn it over or have a missed shot,” Warren said.
“It is all about momentum,” McDermott added. “We moved forward and didn’t look back.”
Both sides exchanged 3s then it got a bit sloppy with some bodies hitting the deck and some chirpiness taking place. It wasn’t until Clark scored seven in a row for Iowa that put the game out of reach.
The sophomore from West Des Moines finished with a game-high 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. She received a technical foul in the fourth quarter.
“A fun environment to play in, I’m one of those people that thrives off the crowd,” Clark said. “I want to win, I don’t care, I want to win no matter what.”
McKenna Warnock chipped in 17 and Monika Czinano had 16 while battling foul trouble.
“I don’t think we flowed into our offense,” Hawkeyes head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We took some hard shots we didn’t need to take. Some of them were 3s that (usually) go in for us and they weren’t going in today.”
Finley led UNI with 17 and McDermott contributed 14. It led for just 25 seconds in the first quarter on a Karli Rucker steal-turned-layup. That was also Rucker’s only points of the night.
Bre Gunnels finished with eight points and five rebounds for UNI.
“This game will make us better,” Warren said.