Missouri’s first-half defense was the deciding factor against Iowa on Tuesday.
The Tigers kept the Hawkeyes’ offense off-balance throughout the first half with an energized defensive effort that guided Missouri to a 75-65 win at Hearnes Center.
Missouri (7-2) finished with a season-high 14 steals, and the Tigers pressure defense disrupted Iowa’s passing lanes early by tipping and deflecting Iowa’s attempts to get the ball inside.
Missouri forced 10 Iowa turnovers in the first 10 minutes and held the Hawkeyes to 22.9 percent shooting in the first half.
“We came out with a lot of energy (on defense),” Missouri forward Evan Unrau said.
“I think our communication was a big thing because we made some switches and even if there were some mismatches, the post felt confident that they could guard a guard for at least a little bit.”
Missouri built a 39-25 halftime lead, but Iowa (6-5) stayed within striking distance throughout. Early in the second half, Iowa’s Jennie Lillis scored seven consecutive points as the Hawkeyes used a 9-0 run to cut the Tigers lead to 52-43 with 12:30 left.
After a Missouri timeout, the Tigers scored five quick points on a MyEsha Perkins jump-shot and an Unrau 3-pointer to regain a 14-point lead. Missouri maintained a double-digit advantage for the rest of the game.
Unrau finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
LaToya Bond’s strong defensive play helped her lead Missouri’s offense. Three of her four steals led to scores and she finished with 20 points and nine assists, both career highs. Bond also had seven rebounds, tying her career high.
“I tried to come out and be more aggressive than I have been in the past,” Bond said. “Anytime we play good defense, our defense can create offense and we can just push the ball up the floor and get fast-break points.”
Missouri held Kristi Faulkner, who came into the game tied with Jamie Cavey as Iowa’s leading scorer, to 1-of-12 shooting and eight points.
Cavey led the Hawkeyes with 20 points and Lillis added 16 points and nine rebounds, but both fouled out with several minutes to play.
“(Cavey and Lillis) are two big guns for them,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “It hurts anytime your two top scorers are sitting and (Faulkner) is not shooting well.”
Stein and Iowa coach Lisa Bluder commented on the physical nature of the game. Iowa and Missouri combined for 46 fouls and Bluder said the physical play was a problem for her team.
“I thought it was a very physical basketball game,” Bluder said. “We didn’t adjust to that and it is not our strength to play against a very physical team.”
Playing in its first game in nine days, Missouri did not seem to feel the effects of the layoff. The win was the Tigers first in five games against the Hawkeyes and avenged an 87-65 loss at Iowa last season.
“I have a lot of respect for Iowa and I look for them to do very well in the Big 10 Conference,” Stein said. “We are going to use this game as a measuring stick because it is very comparable to what we are going to face.”