IOWA CITY | After watching the Iowa women’s basketball team do its thing Thursday, Tania Davis joined in the celebration.
The injured point guard watched the 25th-ranked Hawkeyes do exactly what she hoped they would do in her first game out with a season-ending knee injury, rolling to a 79-66 victory over Drake at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“When she learned she wasn’t coming back, she texted all of us and said, ‘This isn’t about me, it’s about all of you' and I feel like that put confidence in all of us,’’ guard Makenzie Meyer said. “We saw that we can still do good things."
Center Megan Gustafson believes the Hawkeyes will continue to benefit from Davis' leadership and experience in a different way now, finishing the nonconference portion of the schedule with a 12-1 record.
Iowa reached that record Thursday by putting together one of its best quarters of basketball of the season.
The Hawkeyes separated themselves from the Bulldogs in the second quarter, going five-of-six from 3-point range and limiting the Bulldogs to 4-of-16 shooting from the field.
That combination turned a 26-21 game two minutes into the second quarter into an Iowa advantage which grew to 46-27 by halftime.
“If you’re missing shots against a good offensive team, you’ll put yourself in a hole pretty quickly and that’s what happened to us," Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk said.
Meyer, who matched a career high with 21 points, connected on all three of the shots she took from behind the arc and during the second quarter and Kathleen Doyle hit a pair in three attempts as Iowa opened a double-digit lead the Bulldogs were couldn’t catch.
Gustafson contributed eight of her 27 points in the second quarter as well, part of a 15-point first half which combined with 12 rebounds gave the junior her 12th double-double of the season.
“I thought our first half was really, really good. I thought our second half was good enough to hang on to win," Bluder said. “That second quarter was as good of basketball as we’ve played all year. We got our transition game going. Defensively, we were contesting shots."
As Drake stuggled to deal with Gustafson and her 11-of-17 game from the field something — Baranczyk said nobody has been able to do this season — Iowa had its own issues in dealing with an opponent which went 8-of-39 from 3-point range.
The Bulldogs’ Becca Hittner scored 21 of her career-high 27 points in the final two quarters and the Hawkeyes struggled to deny Drake the offense boards all night.
The Bulldogs collected 27 of their 48 rebounds on the offensive glass, leading to a 20-12 edge in second-chance points and pointed criticism from Bluder of her team’s rebounding.
“Our box outs were atrocious," Bluder said. “Besides those, our defense was really good, but we have to cure that problem. We must."
But in a game decided in the second quarter, issues on the boards only provides something to teach off of as Iowa works toward next Thursday’s Big Ten opener at Wisconsin.
“We’ve got to keep working, keep moving forward," Meyer said. “This was one we needed to start to take that next step."