IOWA CITY, Ia. — Be honest: Who outside of Iowa coach Lisa Bluder’s locker room thought the Hawkeyes could stall No. 2 Notre Dame?
Who thought the Hawkeyes could topple the region’s top seed, whose only loss in 33 women’s basketball games this season came against national No. 1 Baylor?
The Irish are a monster matchup accented in Shamrock Shake green, scoring 81-plus points per game and winning by an average of more than three touchdowns every time sneakers touch court.
When the dust and points had settled in Notre Dame’s 74-57 win Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a truth rose from the Hawkeyes’ second-round NCAA Tournament ashes.
Thank goodness for Samantha Logic.
As the Irish outscored and outdefended Iowa, it became clear that just one player decked out in black clearly could have swapped uniforms at halftime.
Logic, the sophomore guard from Racine, Wis., has that “it.” Even in a loss, even when she played far from her best, it was clear she was the purest passer on the court. It was obvious that her ability as a ball-handler, despite five first-half turnovers as the game was being shaped, surpasses most who dribble in her wake.
How important is Logic? Entering the game, Logic averaged 9.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists — as well-rounded a stat line as players get in college basketball.
“She’s the key to her team,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said leading into the game. “She runs the team … and makes them better.”
Logic finished with a both confidence-building and confounding stat line Tuesday: Nine points, nine rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal — but 11 turnovers, as Irish defenders dismantled Iowa’s offensive flow.
Bluder, though, reinforced the wide-ranging elements of Logic’s game that make her so special.
“I know Sam turned the ball over too many times tonight, but I love having her lead our team,” she said. “And I have full confidence in her leading our team the next two years.
No moment encapsulated the true worth of the player wearing No. 22 more than an open-court play as the Irish had started to run and hide near the end of the first half.
Logic grabbed a rebound and began a sprint dribble up court, calmly worked the ball behind her back to dust Irish defender Kayla McBride and found an open route to the basket.
The 3-point play cut the lead to 38-30 — and brought the Carver-Hawkeye crowd back to life.
“This year, I think her leadership, she deferred a little bit off of the floor — and rightfully so — to our seniors,” Bluder said of Logic, who already has started three NCAA Tournament games in just two seasons. “Next year, she’s going to have to pick up some of the slack there.”
Surely, other thoughts sprinted through Bluder’s head as Logic picked up her second foul, away from the ball, with just more than three minutes gone in the game. Bluder stomped around a small section of the court in front of the Hawkeye bench like a teen who’d been told her cell phone privileges had been revoked.
Playing a program like Notre Dame — a four-time visitor to the Final Four, the 2001 national champion, 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, Skylar Diggins and all — is more than a few degrees past tough enough.
Bluder knew that every weapon, including and particularly Logic, could be critical.
Logic, however, focused on a point margin too wide and turnover total too high.
“I didn’t give us a chance,” she said. “In a lot of those situations, I didn’t handle it the right way. … I let it (Notre Dame’s defense) disrupt us too much.”
Iowa braced for Diggins, the Big East player of the year and national player of the year candidate. Diggins recorded eight points in the first half, watching with the rest inside the arena as McBride put the carve in Carver by hitting 4-of-5 3s for 24 points before the break.
Diggins, the senior guard with the fame of 313,000 Twitter followers in her back pocket, brought a resume so celebrated that Bluder joked “she has more security here than Barack Obama when he comes” to Iowa City.
Logic is no Diggins. Not yet, anyway. In fact, almost no one is in today’s college game.
Remember, though — it’s the “it.” And it is coming back.
“I think we have some good people to come back and build off of,” said Logic, when asked to look a season and two into the future. “… We just have to keep that attitude, and build off of what we have.”
Iowa appeared in its sixth straight NCAA Tournament, the longest streak in the Big Ten. The scoreboard Tuesday revealed numbers Iowa fans likely would rather forget.
The real number that matters for the Hawkeyes, though? Two, as in how many more seasons Logic has remaining.
If Bluder’s first-half foot stomp could speak, the voice would rasp loudly and clear: Thank goodness.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball