IOWA CITY — Tania Davis relished the chance to bury a game-winning shot in the final seconds to beat Iowa State last week.
Megan Gustafson appreciated the opportunity reach more milestones as the Iowa women’s basketball team won three games last week.
But one Hawkeye savored every second of it all even more.
Kathleen Doyle simply welcomed the opportunity to compete.
After missing 16th-ranked Iowa’s first seven games of the season, the preseason all-Big Ten selection made the most of her return to competition.
Doyle suffered a fracture of the third and fourth metacarpal in her non-shooting hand one week before the start of the season.
Wearing a wrap to protect the bones she fractured in her left hand during an early November practice, Doyle was cleared to return to competition late in the afternoon of Dec. 3 and returned to action a little over 48 hours later.
She played 29 minutes, scored 22 points and recorded a pair of steals in the Hawkeyes’ 73-70 victory over Iowa State.
“My adrenaline took me through the game,’’ Doyle said. “My hand is still recovering, so I relied on a little adrenaline getting back into that game. I didn’t go out there thinking I was going to score like I did. I was just going to do whatever it took to help my team win.’’
Coach Lisa Bluder suspects that Doyle’s presence helped make that happen.
“It was a big confidence boost for us,’’ Bluder said. “I sent a text Monday night to our players and it went nuts. They were so excited to get her back. It was like ‘Love it, love it, love it.’ It gave us all a huge shot of adrenaline.’’
Getting to that point wasn’t any fun for an athlete not accustomed to being injured.
“Sitting out was worse than I expected,’’ Doyle said. “I struggled with it a lot, not being able to play. You work all offseason to get ready and then to have it taken away, that’s tough. Not being able to play was hard for me.’’
Teammates and coaches tried to keep Doyle involved as much as they could, leaning on the junior guard for advice and doing what they could to help her stay focused on rehabbing the injury so she could return to the court as quickly as possible.
“They did a great job of helping me,’’ Doyle said. “They kept me moving forward, trying to keep my spirits up.’’
Doyle said she missed the competitive part of things as much as anything.
She found it a challenge to sit and watch games, wanting to be on the floor doing what she could as Iowa worked its way through an early-season schedule that included a road trip to top-ranked Notre Dame.
“That part was tough, thinking about what you could be doing but couldn’t,’’ Doyle said.
That left her determined to make the most of her return to action last week.
“Anything I could do, hit a shot, get a rebound, get a steal, whatever I could do I wanted to do to help the team,’’ she said.
Doyle followed her season debut by playing 31 minutes in the Hawkeyes’ win Saturday over IUPUI.
She finished with seven points as Iowa moved to 7-2 on the season, but stole four passes, blocked a pair of shots, grabbed two rebounds and recorded two assists.
It was a very Doyle-like performance, the type of effort that Big Ten opponents became accustomed to dealing with a year ago when Doyle averaged 11.1 points, 6.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
“Kathleen brings a lot to our team,’’ Bluder said. “She brings great leadership to the floor and (before the injury she had) been running the show really well for us. She’s just real comfortable with her game and plays with the confidence you need.’’