Los Angeles – On paper, the No. 6-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes looked to be the winners.
Iowa out-rebounded 11-seed Creighton, 39-28, outscored them in the paint by 14 points and out-shot them overall. But the Bluejays used 38 percent three-point shooting, speed and disruptive, turnover-causing defense to upset the Hawkeyes, 76-70 in NCAA Tournament round one play Saturday.
Jaylyn Agnew scored 24 points to lead Creighton, while Sydney Lamberty had 20 and Audrey Faber, 12.
Both teams traded buckets and leads through the first quarter, knotting the score at 19 to end it. The Bluejays maintained a 34-31 lead at halftime, despite trailing significantly in shooting and rebounding statistical categories.
Agnew and Lamberty both ignited in the third period to score 11 and 6 points, respectively, and pad their team’s lead to as much as eight points throughout the frame. They extended it to nine in the fourth quarter, and a valiant effort by Iowa forward Megan Gustafson cut the deficit to four with 6:38 remaining. A three-pointer by teammate Kathleen Doyle again brought the Hawkeyes within four with 1:31 to go. But Creighton made seven free throw shots down the stretch to seal the win.
Big Ten player of the year Gustafson led Iowa with 29 points and 17 rebounds, while Doyle added 11 and Hannah Stewart, 10 points.
Bluejay coach Jim Flanery praised his team’s fight.
“We knew they were going to get more points in the paint than us. We don’t ever get more points in the paint than anybody,” Flanery said. “I thought [Jalyn Agnew and Sydney Lamberty]…..made great, strong plays at the end of the shot clock. Sydney made some really tough plays. I loved how strong she was late in the shot clock. We’re a slow team, in terms of pace of play, but that’s who we have to be to be successful.”
Flanery reminded players of their strengths down the stretch.
“I told them at the end of halftime that we were the best end-of-quarter team in the country because we got that shot at the end of the first quarter, and we had no business getting that shot up at the end of the half,” he said. “Those are big plays. At the end of the second quarter we gave them one, and in less than six seconds, Jalyn [Agnew] hit that layup.”
Hawkeye coach Lisa Bluder said Creighton’s athleticism wore them down.
“I thought they did a good job of just using the shot clock,” Bluder said. “You work that hard on defense for 30 seconds, it’s a long time. I think we’re making their job easier. We were only making them play defense for five, 10 seconds where we were having to play defense every time for 30 seconds.”
“When you play defense for 30 seconds, you’re going to have more opportunities to foul, you’re going to get a little more tired and it’s hard to keep them in front of you. They do a great job of spacing the court—an unbelievable job—and there’s really nothing you can help off of because they have such good three-point shooters. I just think they did a really good job of that.”
This was Iowa’s first return to the NCAA Tournament since 2015, and Bluder said she is excited for next year, as the Hawkeyes return everyone.
The Bluejays take on UCLA Monday for the right to advance to the Sweet 16. Flanery said they are still hatching a game plan.
“They’re going to make shots that maybe we’ve done as much as we could to contest and they’re going to make things difficult,” Flanery said of the Bruins. “I think they do a good job of mixing defenses and their pressure will be something that we have to address because they’ll mix up how they pressure, so we can’t turn the ball over. We can’t have 16-20 turnovers. We’re a 12-turnover-agame team and we have to be close to that to have a chance.”