In a game that Iowa had to have, it was the Hawkeyes’ lone senior who helped assure them they got it.
On a night where fans took home a bobblehead of her likeness, Theairra Taylor scored a team-high 20 points as Iowa surged to a 78-71 win over Minnesota (11-5, 0-2) Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Taylor led four Hawkeye players in double figures as Iowa (13-4) won its first Big Ten game of the season.
“We needed that first Big Ten win, and it was time to do it,” Taylor said. “Our backs were kind of against the wall, and we don’t have very many games left, so it’s time to turn it on.”
Bethany Doolittle added 19 points, including seven straight during a critical 9-2 Iowa run in the final six minutes that turned a 55-55 tie into a 64-57 lead.
Melissa Dixon tacked on 13 points and Samantha Logic added 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Hawkeyes stopped a two-game losing skid that dropped the Hawkeyes out of the top 25.
“I guess if there is one good thing about losing, it makes winning feel a whole lot better,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “That was a happy locker room, and we needed to get back on the winning track, and I’m really happy with the way that we did it tonight.”
Doolittle lifted Iowa late, but it was Taylor who got the Hawkeyes going early.
The senior from St. Paul, Minn., scored 16 of her team-high 20 points in the first half.
Iowa trailed 35-32 at halftime, but it could have been much worse had it not been for Taylor who accounted for half of the Hawkeyes’ first half scoring output.
Taylor was 6-of-8 from the floor in the opening half while the rest of the Hawkeyes combined to go just 5-of-20.
“I thought it was huge,” Bluder said of Taylor’s first half production. “I thought Theairra did a great job attacking tonight.”
Iowa led by as many as eight in the first half at 28-20, but Minnesota ended the half with a 15-4 run over the final 5:48.
In the second half, it was the Hawkeyes that controlled the final six minutes.
Tied at 55-all with less than six minutes to play, Iowa rattled off six straight points to take control and never took its foot off the gas.
“We were down at halftime, but that’s why it’s 40 minutes,” Logic said. “I think we did a really good job of just staying with it.”
Iowa took the lead for good on a pair of Dixon free throws with 5:45 left.
The Hawkeyes forced a shot clock violation on Minnesota’s next possession and took a 59-55 lead when Doolittle hit a pair of free throws following the fifth foul on Minnesota center Amanda Zahui with 5:02 left.
Following an offensive foul by Minnesota, Doolittle took advantage of Zahui’s absence in the paint with a spinning reverse layup to put the Hawkeyes up 61-55 with 4:25 left.
“I thought when their centers got into foul trouble Beth did a really good job of going to work in there,” Bluder said. “When you get four fouls, you don’t want to foul, you don’t want to sit down, and I thought she did a really nice job of attacking bigger posts in the situation.”
Zahui had 17 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out, and the Golden Gophers felt the effect of her absence.
Minnesota scored just four points in four minutes after Zahui exited while Doolittle scored nine points in the final 5:45 to help secure the win.
“We were trying to attack their posts,” Doolittle said. “They were in foul trouble, and that’s what you want to do against good posts like that is attack, so I just did my best to attack them and get to the free-throw line.”
Rachel Banham hit a driving one-handed jumper to cut the lead to 61-57 with 3:42 left, but that is as close as the Gophers would get.
Doolittle drew the fifth foul on Micaella Riche on the next possession and hit one free throw to up the lead to 62-57 and then added two more free throws that pushed the lead to 64-57 with 2:29 left.
Minnesota wouldn’t get closer than five the rest of the game.
Banham, who entered the game second in the Big Ten in scoring at 20.6 points per game, finished with a game-high 32.
“They are a two-person show almost, but we take great pride in our balance,” Bluder said. “We like that, we like that we are balanced team but those two are pretty darn good, though. They are very good.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball