By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Unique scheduling caused by the coronavirus pandemic of 2020-21 eliminated many of those preconference matchups where the rust is busted and minutes flow for everyone.
Tuesday’s final nonconference game against Western Illinois allowed the University of Iowa women’s basketball team to clear its bench early and often. At the midway mark of the first quarter, 10 Hawkeyes had played; by the end of Iowa’s 92-65 victory on Mediacom Court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, six Hawkeyes had scored in double figures, freshman Caitlin Clark had a triple double, junior Logan Cook didn’t miss a shot and freshman Sharon Goodman played a season (and career) high 14 minutes, netting 12 points and nine rebounds. Six of the boards were on the offensive end.
“Down the road we’re going to need a lot of people to contribute,” said Clark, who posted 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. “We need solid play off the bench. They came in and showed everybody how good they are and I think they will keep moving forward from there.”
Five Hawkeyes set career bests, including Cook with 12 points and nine rebounds, sophomore Megan Meyer with 13 points and sophomore Gabbie Marshall with six steals.
“It was exciting to see my teammates do such a good job, we played together well,” Cook said. “With experience on the court, we get more confident and more comfortable playing out there. It will be important going forward in the Big Ten. You have to stay ready, have confidence when you go in and do the best you can.”
Cook was 5 of 5 from the field and 2 of 2 from the line in 22 minutes.
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder expected to lean heavily on her bench. This would be one of the rare opportunities this season to iron out kinks in rotations and allow everyone game minutes rather than practice minutes.
“Six in double figures, nine play double figure minutes,” Bluder said. “Those are good things to be able to spread those minutes and points. I want them to go home (for the four-day holiday break) feeling good about themselves and they should.”
Goodman was efficient. In 14 minutes, she shot 4 of 9 form the field and 4 of 4 from the line with nine rebounds. The competition was a step up from what she saw last season at Crestwood (Iowa) High School, when the 6-foot-3 center averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds a game while shooing nearly 74 percent from the field.
“Six in double figures, nine play double figure minutes. Those are good things to be able to spread those minutes and points. I want them to go home (for the four-day holiday break) feeling good about themselves and they should.”Lisa Bluder, Iowa head coach
“I wish she would have gotten one more rebound to get that double figure rebound number,” Bluder said. “I’m looking forward to continued development, I believe the sky is the limit for that kid.”
The most productive stretch for Goodman was her four minutes in the third quarter. She was 3 of 5 from the field with five rebounds.
“It’s a team and the girls got me the ball,” Goodman said. “I just kind of catch it and put it in the basket. Credit to my teammates.”
Because of inside play from the likes of Goodman and junior center Monika Czinano (who scored a game-high 19 points), the Hawkeyes dominated in the paint, outscoring Western Illinois by 28 points. They were also plus-13 in rebounding.
Iowa (5-1, 1-1) extended its winning streak on Mediacom Court to 40. The Hawkeyes remain home New Year’s Eve day to face Rutgers (4-1, 1-1) with tipoff set for 2 p.m. (CT). The Scarlet Knights host Manhattan on Dec. 23.
Iowa will play 18 straight Big Ten games from Dec. 31 until the postseason begins in March.
“You better embrace it, let’s go,” Bluder said. “This is one of the toughest conferences in America and we have to be ready. Rutgers is next, one game at a time, here we go.”