INDIANAPOLIS — One upset was followed by another.
No. 3-seed Iowa dug itself into an early hole and not much improved from there in an 87-66 loss to No. 6-seed Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday.
The evening session began with Michigan’s 67-59 upset of second-seeded Northwestern. There was one main difference in the two upsets: 19th-ranked Iowa was dominated from the beginning.
“I want to apologize for our poor performance,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I thought we had a couple of good prep days. Ohio State played late (on Thursday night) and we didn’t, but they came out with more energy.”
Ohio State (19-11) couldn’t miss offensively against Iowa’s zone defense, shooting 63 percent from the field in the first half and building a 48-31 lead. The Buckeyes built a 15-point lead after the first quarter and Iowa never got within single digits again.
“That was a rough first quarter,” Bluder said.
“We didn’t play good defense,” Iowa senior Kathleen Doyle said. “We needed to play with more energy and tenacity on defense and we didn’t do that and get the job done. Credit to Ohio State for shooting the ball well.”
And the second half didn’t start any better for the Hawkeyes, evident by Bluder being forced to call a timeout 54 seconds into the third quarter.
Two of Iowa’s best players missed baskets to open the second half. Makenzie Meyer couldn’t hit an open 3-pointer and Doyle, the conference’s player of the year, missed on a drive to the basket. Ohio State answered by hitting 3-pointers on its first two possessions of the second half to take a 54-31 lead.
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“I feel like we missed a lot of shots we normally make, a lot of bunnies inside and a lot of layups,” Bluder said. “That’s a momentum killer when you miss those kind of shots you know are supposed to be going in for you.”
Iowa could never maintain any little bit of momentum it found. Meyer hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 20 points. But the Buckeyes scored second-chance buckets on their next two possessions to regain firm control of the game.
“It’s a game of runs and whoever does the better job of withstanding each other’s runs is going to prevail,” Doyle said. “Ohio State did a better job of that.”
The game progressively got more out of hand from that point. The Buckeyes’ lead grew to as many as 34 points, 73-39, with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We didn’t play good defense,” Doyle said. “We needed to play with more energy and tenacity on defense and we didn’t do that and get the job done. Credit to Ohio State for shooting the ball well.”
In a regular season home game, Iowa defeated Ohio State, 77-68. The Buckeyes executed offensively at a different level this time around.
“We tried to call a couple of timeouts and stop the bleeding, but that was pretty impressive shooting,” Bluder said. “The difference to me is they didn’t make those kinds of shots at our place. When you are shooting that well from 3-point range, it opens up the inside. They really stretched our defense with their shooting.”
Iowa (23-7) did open the fourth quarter on a modest 9-2 run but at that point it was too little, too late.
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Bluder wanted her team to push the tempo on offense, but an inability to get defensive stops hindered that game plan from the onset. Ohio State shot 83 percent during the first six minutes of the game, limiting transition opportunities.
Doyle finished with a team-high 16 points, but shot just 6 of 18 from the field. She was also banged up physically in the game, having to leave twice after hard falls to the floor. She returned both times after receiving treatment.
Monika Czinano struggled, finishing with 11 points but shooting just 4 of 14 from the field.
McKenna Warnock started in place of Amanda Ollinger, who averaged 6.4 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds in the regular season. Warnock, a freshman, made just her third career start and finished with four points but she just shot 1 of 9 from the field in 25 minutes. Ollinger played as a reserve and finished with three points and four rebounds in 11 minutes.
Ohio State had five players score in double figures, led by reserve Kierstan Bell’s 16 points and four 3-pointers.
Now, the Hawkeyes will have to await their NCAA tournament fate. They are a lock to make the tournament, but may now be on the bubble for hosting the first two rounds. The selection show is a week from Monday.