Jan. 8, 2014
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The free bobblehead might have sparked University of Iowa senior Theairra Taylor to score a season-high 20 points, but it was a high level of energy and focus that carried the Hawkeyes past Minnesota 78-71 Wednesday on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
On Theairra Taylor Bobblehead Night, the real Theairra Taylor matched her previous season-high point total of 16 before halftime. She scored her 12th point 11-minutes, 36-seconds into the contest, putting her on pace for more than a point a minute.
“We needed that first Big Ten win, our backs were kind of against the wall,” Taylor said. “We don’t have many games left, so it was time to turn it on.”
At halftime she had made 6-of-8 field goals, 2-of-3 3-point field goals, and 2-of-2 free throws. In the second half she scored four points, making her only field goal and both free throws.
“I thought Theairra played a great game for us, maybe her best of the year,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said.
Taylor wasn’t alone, as it took an entire effort by the Hawkeyes to overcome a 32-point performance by Minnesota’s Rachel Banham. UI center Bethany Doolittle scored 19 points, followed by Melissa Dixon with 13, Samantha Logic with 11, and Ally Disterhoft with nine.
“The most important thing is we got the win versus how many points one person got,” Bluder said.
Iowa improved to 13-4 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten Conference. Minnesota is 11-5, 0-2.
Doolittle took the game over during a 2 ½ minute span from the five-minute mark unit 2:29 remained in the game. She scored seven points in that time and also drew a fifth foul on two Minnesota players — Amanda Zahui with 5:02 to play and Micaella Riche with 3:08 remaining. Before fouling out, Zahui scored 17 points with 15 rebounds.
“We were trying to attack their posts, they were in foul trouble,” Doolittle said. “I did my best to go attack them, go to the free throw line, and get them in foul trouble even more.”
Iowa shot 28 free throws, making 26. The Hawkeyes made their first 11, and on their first miss, Claire Till hustled for the rebound and made a left-handed put-back to give Iowa a 51-45 lead with 12:46 remaining.
It was the third Big Ten game in six days for the Hawkeyes, a scheduling quirk that initially concerned Bluder. But after putting the team through a light workout Monday, Iowa’s legs weren’t the only thing to return: focus and energy came with them.
“We played with a lot more energy and focus,” Bluder said. “We had less mental breakdowns in this game than we’ve had in the past couple of games; we were dialed in mentally. That’s what we have to do every night because we feed off that.”
It had been a tough start to the conference season for the Hawkeyes, who fell at Indiana by two points Jan. 2 before losing to No. 15 Penn State at home three days later.
“You don’t want to go with any more losses,” said Logic, who also contributed eight rebounds and eight assists. “We didn’t doubt we were going to win; you don’t want to go into game thinking you’re not going to win. We were down at halftime, but that’s why it’s 40 minutes. We did a good job of staying with it.”
Iowa led 28-20 with 5:48 left in the first half, but the Gophers held a 35-30 edge four minutes later. That was reduced to 35-32 when Taylor made a layup off an assist from Logic with 37 seconds to go before the break. The Hawkeyes led for good after Dixon put them on top 57-55 after two free throws with 5:45 left. Iowa had its biggest lead at 71-59 when Disterhoft sank two free throws with 47 seconds left.
“If there’s one good thing about losing, it makes winning feel a whole lot better,” Bluder said. “That was a happy locker room. We needed to get back on the winning track and I am really happy with the way we did it.”
Iowa returns to action Sunday with a game at Wisconsin (8-5, 1-0) beginning at noon. The Badgers play at Michigan on Jan. 9.
“We want to keep that energy we had and keep it rolling into our next game,” Doolittle said.