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Hawkeye women: Up and down season

Iowa guard Makenzie Meyer fends off Nebraska's Jasmine Cincore during the Hawkeyes' 92-74 home loss to the Cornhuskers Jan. 28 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (photo by Don Lund)

The Iowa women’s basketball team finished 24-8, 11-5 in the Big Ten last season.
The Hawks started strong, going 14-1, 2-0 in the Big Ten.
Tania Davis went down for the season with a knee injury after the 12th game and Makenzie Meyer broke a bone in her non-shooting hand one game later.
The Hawks were sitting at 16-6, 4-5 in the Big Ten when they got hot, won their final eight games, including a win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament.
Minnesota knocked the Hawks out of the Big Ten Tournament and Creighton beat Iowa in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
I had a chance to meet new Iowa assistant Raina Harmon and talk to her about the season.
It didn’t take long to see why Lisa Bluder hired the former Central Michigan assistant.
Talk about personality, passion for the game and her players… coach Harmon has it all.
Raina (cool name) grew up in Detroit, played at Central Michigan from 2001-04 and was assistant coach from 2012-2017.
She played the three or four position in college and said, “I was really athletic and could jump out of the gym.”
Why did she want to coach at Iowa?
“I really didn’t know much about Iowa,” said coach Harmon. “Coach Bluder called some people and they recommended me. We did a Facetime interview and they brought me on campus for a two-day interview and the rest is history.”
Raina said the people and the coaching staff were very welcoming.
“When we ate downtown, I could see how the people of the community had respect for Lisa Bluder,” said the coach. “Jan (Jensen) and Jenni (Fitzgerald) did a really good job of making me feel welcome.”

Iowa jumped out fast (14-1), losing only to 13th-ranked Florida State, 96-93.
“This team just had a really different dynamic,” said coach Raina. “You could see they really cared about each other not just teammates, but off the court, also. We thought if we could keep everybody healthy, we could make a nice run.”
Then Tania went out for the season and Makenzie missed six games with a broken hand.
“That’s the heartbreaker,” said Raina about Tania. “We’ve seen her go through that before.”
The coach said Iowa was so good in transition with Tania running the show.
Then when Makenzie went out Carly Mohns and Zion Sanders stepped up and helped fill the void.
The Hawks finished strong, winning seven straight to finish the regular season.
“We went undefeated in the month of February,” said coach Harmon. “We did a good job in February moving forward.”
The Hawkeyes’ big win was over Ohio State, 103-89, on Jan. 29.
Four players were in double-figures, led by Megan Gustafson with 29 and Kathleen Doyle with 25.
The Buckeyes were ranked 14th at the time and coach Harmon said Iowa did a great job of following the game plan.
Iowa beat Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, 55-45.
Makenzie Meyer scored 13, Megan 12 but the Wildcats shot only 27 percent from the floor and 20 percent from 3-point range.
The Hawks were knocked out by Minnesota, 90-89, in the second game.
Megan went off with a Big Ten Tournament-best 48 points, which was also an Iowa record, but the Hawks couldn’t convert with less than 10 seconds left to win the game.
The Hawkeyes traveled to California for the first round of the NCAA tournament and were knocked off by Creighton, 76-70.
Iowa had more rebounds (39-28), more points in the paint (36-22), Megan had 29 with 17 rebounds but the Blue Jays made nine 3-pointers, Iowa three.
“We knew they had shooters everywhere,” said Raina. “They knew what Megan could do.”
Coach Harmon has been playing, watching and coaching college basketball since 2001 and I had to ask her, “Have you ever had anybody that’s close to Megan?”
“No,” she said without hesitation. “She’s a coach’s dream. She works her butt off. She’s humble and she means it but when she steps on that floor, she’s a beast.”
Tania Davis has had her tough luck on injuries, but if she can stay healthy, the Hawkeyes are a better team.
“She’s a basketball junkie,” said coach Harmon. “She’s always watching some game and the kid just loves to play.”
The coach said Tania Davis was the reason Iowa could play such a fast-paced game because of her speed and ball-handling.
Hannah Stewart did a great job of coming off the bench, averaging 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and is one of the captains.
“I love her vibe,” said Raina. “She’s a people person and that kid is super-athletic. She works hard and does what is asked of her.”
Makenzie fought off a broken bone in her non-shooting hand to lead the team in 3-pointers with 51.
“We’re looking to get Makenzie to shoot more,” said the coach. “Shoot more, make more.”
Makenzie shot 91 percent from the free throw line.
Kathleen Doyle had eight games last season when she didn’t leave the floor and two of them were in overtime.
She led the team in assists (199) and steals (46).
“She’s another one that loves the game,” said Raina. “She plays hard in practice, too.”
Amanda Ollinger is one of the best role players on the team.
When Iowa needs a rebound, basket or a defensive stop, Amanda usually comes through.
“I thought she embraced her role,” said coach Harmon. “Especially when Makenzie went out. We needed her to step up, but we didn’t need her to be Makenzie.”
Alexis Sevillian, who redshirted last year, came out strong, scoring in double figures in seven of her first nine games.
The coach said Alexis is another one that’s always in the gym.
Carly Mohns and Zion Sanders, who started as walk-ons, also gave Iowa’s thin bench some quality minutes.
Paula Ramos, a 6-3 center from Spain, has had to go up against Megan and Hannah everyday.
She also has the best grade point average on the team.

The Hawks signed four recruits that coach Harmon said can help right away.
They include Logan Cook (6-1), a forward from Iowa City West; Kate Martin (6-0) guard from Illinois; Tomi Talwo (5-10) guard from Indiana and Monika Czinano (6-3), a forward/center from Minnesota.
Logan helped West High beat City High for the state championship.
“We’re really looking forward to getting Logan,” said Raina. “She is going to be a nice asset to what we have.”
Coach Harmon said Kate Martin is “Super-athletic with a high IQ, maybe a little bigger version Kathleen Doyle.”
“Tomi can play the two or three,” said Raina. “She set her high school record for 3-pointrs made. She shot 60 percent from three.”
The coach said Monika can run the court and will add some depth to the front line.
“They will add depth and they also will come in and compete,” said the coach.
The Hawkeyes have four starters back led by All-American Megan Gustafson.
If they can keep Tania healthy and add some depth with the freshman, they could make a run at the Big Ten title.