By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There had to be uneasiness when the University of Iowa women’s basketball schedule was released and in Game 2, the reloading Hawkeyes saw they would face a North Alabama team with five seasoned seniors coming off a 21-win season.
Not to mention, the Lions were averaging 107 points in their first two victories.
“They aren’t going to back down or be intimidated by anybody,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said.
She was correct, but the Hawkeyes were up to the challenge Thursday behind 20-point performances from senior guards Kathleen Doyle and Makenzie Meyer to improve to 2-0 with an 86-81 win in front of 5,446 on Mediacom Court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It was good preparation and you always want to gain experience and gain the W,” Bluder said.
Meyer scored a game-high 21 and seven rebounds, with 14 points coming in the second half. Doyle added 20 points, seven assists, and four steals, sophomore center Monika Czinano scored 18 points with six rebounds, and freshman Gabbie Marshall made her first collegiate start and poured in 13 points with three 3-point field goals.
Senior Amanda Ollinger was 3 for 3 from the field with five rebounds, four steals, three assists, and three blocked shots in 23 minutes.
In the final 4:44, Meyer was 4 for 5 from the line and 1 of 2 from the field with two assists.
The Hawkeyes, who shot 56 percent from the field, have won 23 consecutive home games, the third-longest streak in the nation behind Baylor and Connecticut.
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“We’re glad to have the win. That’s a good (North Alabama) team. A team that won 21 games last year with five veteran starters back. Those kids fight hard.”
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
Czinano was 9 for 9 from the field and finished the game with 18 points and six rebounds. Her counterpart in the paint, North Alabama senior Brittany Panetti, entered the game making 14 of 15 field goals (93.3 percent). Panetti was 4 of 7 from the field against the Hawkeyes.
With junior Alexis Sevillian sidelined with a right foot injury, Marshall earned the start. She played 32 minutes and scored 13 points with three assists. Her 3-point field goal from the right baseline with a minute remaining gave the Hawkeyes an 84-78 lead.
“It is just another game,” Marshall said. “I tried to take my time and do whatever I could to fill that gap because we were down a couple players.”
Marshall wasn’t the only rookie thrown quickly into the fire. At a media timeout with 4:56 left in the first quarter, the five Hawkeyes on the court included freshmen Marshall, Kate Martin, and McKenna Warnock. Martin scored six points with four rebounds in 21 minutes.
The Hawkeyes have their first road test of the season Sunday against Northern Iowa. The Panthers, fresh off a 78-73 win at Missouri on Nov. 13, are 3-0. Tip-off is 2 p.m. (CT) from the McLeod Center.
“It will be a new experience for us, another learning opportunity,” Bluder said. “Carver is a friendly place to play, now you have people cheering against you. Unfortunately we can’t take all our fans to Cedar Falls.”