Dec. 28, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A team that prides itself on multiple double-digit scorers now has double-digit victories after No. 20 University of Iowa defeated Penn State, 77-52, Sunday on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It was the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.
Iowa improves to 10-2 overall, 1-0 in the Big Ten Conference; Penn State is 3-9, 0-1. It is the fifth straight season that the Hawkeyes head into a new calendar year with 10 or more victories. It is also the most lopsided Big Ten-opening win since defeating Northwestern, 86-55, on Dec. 30, 2011.
All five UI starters average at least 10.6 points per game and two of them reached milestones against Penn State. With 12 points Sunday, senior center Bethany Doolittle became the third member on the current roster (and 33rd in program history) to score at least 1,000 points in her career. She has 1,005.
Senior guard Melissa Dixon made 5-of-12 3-point field goals, moving into second in school history with 257. The all-time leader is Lindsey Meder with 261 from 1998-2002.
Dixon led five Hawkeyes in double-figure scoring with 21 points. Doolittle (12), sophomore Ally Disterhoft (11) and freshmen Christina Buttenham (11) and Whitney Jennings (11) also reached double figures. Doolittle had 11 rebounds and six blocked shots.
The Hawkeyes shot 46.7 percent from the field (28-of-60) while holding the Nittany Lions to 31.6 percent (18-of-57). Iowa had 21 assists on 28 field goals, led by Disterhoft with eight and senior Samantha Logic with five. Penn State was forced into 24 turnovers.
“It was a good way to start the Big Ten,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It’s just one game and it’s going to be a grueling schedule. We played very well today in a lot of different areas and having 21 assists was excellent.”
Iowa gained a 16-1 lead at the 13:49 mark of the first half with Disterhoft scoring seven of the Hawkeye’s first 11 points. They then went 3:03 without points before Dixon sank her second 3-point field goal to make it 19-9.
“It was nice to see, especially since Penn State is a little bit of a younger team and they don’t have a lot of experience,” Bluder said. “That can really mess with you mentally when you get down on the road that quickly, so I thought that was a great way to start this game.”
Dixon led all scorers at the break with 14 points, including four 3-point field goals. Her first make from long range moved her past Jaime Printy into second place in Hawkeye history with 253.
Disterhoft and Buttenham helped Iowa to a 41-24 halftime lead with nine points. Buttenham made 4-of-4 field goals, including her only 3-point attempt.
“I thought Christina did a great job of `Here is an opportunity, I’m taking full advantage of this opportunity’, and I thought she did a great job preparing in practice for that,” Bluder said.
Iowa begins 2015 with a two-game road trip beginning Jan. 4 at No. 17 Rutgers. The Hawkeyes play at Illinois on Jan. 7.
“Let’s spend all week getting ready for Rutgers and give it our best shot,” BLuder said. “You need a week to get ready for somebody like Rutgers who plays differently as far as full court press, heavy denial, great ball pressure, but also, it’s a new opponent in our Big Ten. So we are not familiar with that style.”