Before walking off the court Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Miami women’s basketball coach Katie Meier instructed sophomore Jessica Thomas to look around.
Meier wanted her to watch as Iowa celebrated its 88-70 victory over the Hurricanes in the second round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament.
She wanted her to soak in the celebration, see the excitement, hear the racket the crowd of 7,220 was making after the third-seeded Hawkeyes earned their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1996.
“I wanted Jessica to watch that celebration,’’ Meier said. “I want us to be a Sweet 16 team and I want us to know what it feels like. We’re not quite ready. We’ve got to get mentally tougher and when we do, we’re going to be celebrating as well.’’
Thomas, who led Miami with 20 points, got the message.
“It was tough to watch that, but if we want to be out there, celebrating the way they were, we need to get better,’’ Thomas said. “We need to learn from this.’’
The Hurricanes struggled with the depth of Iowa’s offensive weapons.
For the second straight game, all five Hawkeye starters scored in double figures and as Miami concentrated on limiting damage from a perimeter attack that averages just under eight 3-point baskets per game, Bethany Doolittle went to work inside.
The 6-foot-4 senior finished with 22 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots to help 18th-ranked Iowa complete an 18-0 season on its home court.
“She was a stud,’’ Iowa guard Samantha Logic said. “With the weapons we have, we can spread the court a bit and you have to play us honest or somebody is going to be open.’’
That somebody proved to be Doolittle, whose effort was complemented by six points off the bench from her back-up, freshman Chase Coley.
“She played like somebody that was trying to make it to the Sweet 16,’’ said Adrienne Motley, who scored the Hurricanes’ first 11 points of the second half on her way to an 18-point game.
Miami didn’t go away quietly even though Iowa shot 75 percent from the field in the second half, knocking down 18-of-24 shots.
The Hurricanes, down 38-31 at the half, fell behind 67-55 following a Kali Peschel three-pointer with 8 minutes 56 seconds remaining but pulled within 69-63 when on a lay-up by Michelle Woods with 7:27 left.
Logic missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity seven seconds later, but Doolittle slipped in to grab the offensive rebound and then knocked down a 15-foot jumper with 6:59 remaining to ignite a 15-3 run by the Hawkeyes.
“Just hit the jumper in our face,’’ Meier said. “That was a huge four-point swing there in a six-point game. From that point on, I think we just kind of broke. We had been holding steady, and playing then tough.’’
Meier said the Hawkeyes (26-7) forced the Hurricanes to stray from their normal fundamental defensive philosophies.
“When we over-helped on the perimeter in the first half, Doolittle was the recipient of dump offs and clean ups on the back side,’’ Meier said. “When we tried not to help off of her, they hit from three. That’s why they’re having the season they’re having.’’
Iowa, out-rebounded by its opponent 20 times this season, handled the Hurricanes (20-13) on the boards by a 44-35 count.
“The only thing Iowa did wrong, they missed a couple of free throws,’’ Meier said. “It wasn’t our day.’’