Nov. 22, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Before University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder checked the final box score from Saturday’s 90-83 win against Dayton, she checked the calendar.
“Is this November or is it March?” Bluder asked media as she opened her postgame news conference.
The No. 18 Hawkeyes won the highly anticipated rematch with the Flyers to capture the championship of the Hawkeye Challenge. Iowa is undefeated in four games, but this one had more of an NCAA March Madness — not a preseason — tournament feel to it.
Taking care of the ball trumped rebounding on this night. The game statistics for Iowa and Dayton were nearly identical, except the Flyers held a substantial rebounding edge (49-37) and Iowa dominated the turnover battle (forcing 20, committing nine).
“Both teams are so similar,” Bluder said. “They rebounded better than we did, we took care of the ball better than they did.”
You didn’t have to look far to notice the similarities. Dayton shot 42 percent from the field, Iowa 41.9. Dayton made 29.2 percent from 3-point range, Iowa 28.6. Dayton shot 90 percent from the line, Iowa 88. Iowa scored 34 points in the paint, Dayton 32. Iowa converted 12 fast break points, Dayton 10.
Twenty-four hours after Iowa made just 12-of-20 free throws against Pepperdine, the Hawkeyes sank 22-of-25 against Dayton, including eight in a row to end the game. Six Hawkeyes were perfect from the line, led by sophomore Ally Disterhoft (8-of-8) and senior Bethany Doolittle (5-of-5).
“For us to win the game it was imperative that we make our free throws and we got to the free throw line and did a great job,” Bluder said.
Five Hawkeyes scored in double figures, led by Doolittle with 23 points and five rebounds. Disterhoft totaled 18 points, followed by freshman Whitney Jennings with 15, senior Samantha Logic with 12, and senior Melissa Dixon with 10. Logic, the tournament MVP, compiled her fifth career triple-double by adding 11 rebounds and 10 assists (she also had four steals). Doolittle and Disterhoft joined Logic on the all-tournament team.
“We’re all about balanced scoring so you can’t concentrate on one player,” Bluder said.
The lead changed hands seven times, but Dayton was in control for the better part of the first 36 ½ minutes. Doolittle put the Hawkeyes on top 80-79 with two free throws with 3:24 remaining and Iowa held on. Jennings came up big in the final 3:09 with a steal, forced jump ball that went to Iowa (50.8 seconds left) and a defensive rebound and the final two free throws of the game (2.2 seconds left).
“She grew up, didn’t she?” Bluder said. “That was an incredible performance for your second start in college basketball. And it was impressive. I thought her composure was excellent out there and that’s easily a game where freshmen can freak out a little bit. There was a lot of on the line there and she didn’t.”
Doolittle converted a play that sealed the win with less than 35 seconds remaining. With Iowa leading by one possession (84-81), Doolittle took the ball in the lane and scored in the paint, putting the Hawkeyes up by five.
“I saw an opening and I went for it,” Doolittle said. “Down the stretch that composure and concentration comes in play. I went with what I saw was open.”
Dayton, which was ranked No. 22 in the preseason, dipped to 1-3. The Flyers led by 10 points, 68-58, with 9:47 remaining. Dayton was paced by Andrea Hoover (24 points, 16 rebounds) and Ally Malott (24 points).
The Hawkeyes remain at home for a fifth straight game Tuesday when they take on Northern Iowa. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“This is a little bit of a tough stretch, because it’s three games in five days and that’s hard to do,” Bluder said. “Especially this time of year when you’re not really in perfect game shape yet.”