By DARREN MILLER
INDIANAPOLIS — Kathleen Doyle heard rumblings while the surprisingly successful University of Iowa women’s basketball season rolled on.
Maybe the chatter began the first week of January when the Hawkeyes knocked off co-Big Ten regular season champions Northwestern on the road and four days later, Maryland at home. If Doyle’s name wasn’t mentioned as a possible Big Ten Player of the Year candidate then, it certainly was after the senior guard’s 31-point, 10-assist, nine-rebound performance over Indiana on Jan. 12.
“I didn’t focus on it at all,” Doyle said. “I just try to play hard all the time.”
Doyle was named Big Ten Player of the Year by coaches and media March 2 after leading Iowa to a regular-season record of 23-6 overall, 14-4 in the Big Ten. She led the league in assists with 6.4 per game and was fourth in scoring at 18.2 points per game.
It is the third straight season where a Hawkeye has been named Big Ten Player of the Year. Megan Gustafson earned the honor in 2017-18 by media, and by coaches and media in 2018-19. Prior to that, the last Iowa player to earn Player of the Year was Tangela Smith in 1997-98.
“It’s special to bring three players of the year in a row to Iowa,” Doyle said. “It’s not something you think about going into the season. I was thinking about team standings and wanting our team to be at the top. Individual success only comes after team success; it is all the hard work my coaches and teammates put in together that makes it pay off in the end.”
In preseason Big Ten team predictions released Oct. 21, Iowa was nowhere to be found in the top five from either coaches or media. Doyle was a consensus projection to be first-team all-conference, but it was Maryland’s Kaila Charles who was expected to succeed Gustafson as Player of the Year.
Doyle, a 5-foot-9 guard from LaGrange Park, Illinois, scored 19 points in the Big Ten opener at Nebraska on Dec. 28, then continued to score in double figures for the next 17 regular-season games. Nine times she scored 20-or-more points in a Big Ten game, including 33 against Illinois on Dec. 31 and 31 against Indiana. She handed out a school-record 15 assists against Nebraska on Feb. 6.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes put together a nine-game Big Ten winning streak from Dec. 31 to Jan. 30 and ended the season alone in third place. They have won 36 consecutive home games, second-longest streak in the nation.
“I’m thankful the media and coaches thought that highly of me, and it’s hard to say why they chose me,” Doyle said. “Part of it might have been that we had a better year than people thought we were going to have.”
Doyle isn’t the only decorated Hawkeye. Sophomore center Monika Czinano was first-team All-Big Ten by media and second team by coaches; senior guard Makenzie Meyer was a consensus second-team selection; McKenna Warnock was named to the All-Freshman team by coaches.
“We swept up in the awards,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I’m happy for those young women.”
The No. 19/20 University of Iowa women’s basketball team opens the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State on Friday at approximately 7:45 p.m. (CT) in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Iowa won the only regular season meeting, 77-68, on Jan. 23 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.