College Womens Basketball

Iowa's recent turnover rash 'very alarming' to Lisa Bluder

Women's basketball: Hawkeyes aim to keep Illini reeling in Big Ten

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle (22) registered her first double-double — 13 points, 11 assists — in the Hawkeyes' 80-64 loss to Maryland on Thursday. The Hawkeyes are at Illinois on Sunday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle (22) registered her first double-double — 13 points, 11 assists — in the Hawkeyes' 80-64 loss to Maryland on Thursday. The Hawkeyes are at Illinois on Sunday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Heading into the Big Ten women’s basketball season, the Iowa Hawkeyes owned the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the nation.

It’s not a coincindence that the numbers have flipped the other way since Iowa suffered its second major injury.

In the last three games, No. 17 Iowa (14-2 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) has averaged 16 assists per game, against 20 turnovers per contest.

“That’s very alarming,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said Friday, as the Hawkeyes put Thursday’s loss to Maryland behind them and began preparation for Illinois (8-9, 0-3). Tipoff is 1 p.m. Sunday at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.

“That’s something we pride ourselves on — high assists and low turnovers. It’s frustrating when we make unforced turnovers.”

The Hawkeyes coughed it up 23 times Thursday, fell behind 31-17 after a quarter and were never really in the game, falling to the Terrapins, 80-64, and watching their seven-game win streak come to an end.

“We’re out two point guards, and we’re paying the price for that,” Bluder said.

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Tania Davis suffered a torn ACL on Dec. 17 and will miss the remainder of the season. Makenzie Meyer broke a bone in her left hand Dec. 27, and a timetable for her return is uncertain.

Those two combine for about 10.6 assists per game, so this wasn’t unexpected.

Though the Hawkeyes played “their worst quarter of the season” — according to Bluder — at Maryland, that loss was anything but crippling. In fact, Iowa’s RPI actually rose a spot to 14 after the defeat.

Illinois, though ... that’s a different animal. Projected to climb somewhat in the Big Ten this year, the Illini instead have backtracked, at least so far. Their last time out, at Rutgers, they suffered a 76-37 blasting.

But they’ll have the Hawkeyes full attention, and should. Illinois snuck up and tripped the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten opener last year.

“They’re better than their record indicates,” Bluder said. “Brandi Beasley is a tremendous point guard. Alex Wittinger is a hard post to guard. She’s an agile, explosive center.”

Wittinger will be matched with Iowa’s Megan Gustafson, a five-time Big Ten player of the week this season. Gustafson collected 15 points and 15 rebounds at Maryland, her 15th double-double of the season.

Kathleen Doyle picked up her first: 13 points, 11 assists.

Former Iowa City High player Courtney Joens is a reserve guard for the Illini, averaging 2.8 points per game.

There’s not much festive atmosphere at the State Farm Center. The Illini are drawing 1,161 fans per game at home.

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“It’s a dark environment, cavernous,” Bluder said. “It’s kind of dull there, so we’ll have to build our own energy. We don’t have a lot of (players), so it’s important that everybody’s playing well.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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