March 22, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Somewhere between an exhibition game in early November and a second round NCAA Tournament game in late March, the University of Iowa’s dream of a Sweet 16 women’s basketball berth turned into a drive of destiny.
On Sunday, in front of 7,220 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the quest became a done deal.
Senior center Bethany Doolittle scored 22 points with 11 rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes past Miami, 88-70, giving Iowa its sixth Sweet 16 appearance and first since 1996. It is the ninth double-double of the season for Doolittle, who made 8-of-16 field goals and pulled down six offensive boards.
“With the circumstances at hand, I think it was pretty good outcome for us,” Doolittle said. “I obviously don’t want this season to be over, and ending on this note at home is great. We wanted to keep going and I wanted to play hard for my teammates and play hard for the crowd.”
The Hawkeyes (26-7) play the winner of Arkansas/Baylor on Friday, March 27, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Miami retires at 20-13.
Iowa finished the season 18-0 at home (19-0 if you include the exhibition win over St. Ambrose on Nov. 9).
“It’s awesome to go out and win our last game in Carver, and with those stakes so high, getting to the Sweet 16 and finally reaching that goal,” said senior Samantha Logic, who scored 12 points with seven assists and five rebounds.
The last time an Iowa women’s basketball team advanced this far, it also played its first two games in Iowa City with wins against Butler and DePaul. The atmosphere Sunday was evident to Miami head coach Katie Meier.
“I would like to invite the entire Iowa fan base to come to a home game at Miami,” Meier said. “It’s nice and warm. And I’ll give them all free tickets and I would love them to come cheer for us, because it is a huge factor. It has an amazing impact on the game.”
As much as the crowd was pro-Iowa, so were the final field goal percentages. The Hawkeyes shot 52.6 percent for the game and 75 percent in the second half (18-of-24). Miami made 39.7 percent for the game and just under that over the final 20 minutes.
Three Hawkeyes joined Doolittle and Logic in double figures: sophomore Ally Disterhoft (15), senior Melissa Dixon (12), and freshman Whitney Jennings (11). Iowa won the rebounding battle, 44-35 — just the third time in the last 11 outings where they have finished with an advantage on the glass.
“When you’re at this point (of the postseason), you’re playing against such good competition, so it’s all about possessions,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It’s about taking care of the ball and rebounding, and we out-rebounded a pretty good basketball team by nine.”
Both teams committed 14 turnovers.
The Hawkeyes received production for their bench. Junior Kali Peschel, sophomore Alexa Kastanek, and freshman Chase Coley combined to shoot 7-of-9 from the field (2-of-2 from 3-point) with 10 rebounds, three assists, and a steal.
“Our bench was really good today,” Bluder said.
Miami sophomore guards Jessica Thomas and Adrienne Motley scored 20 and 18 points, respectively. Senior Necole Sterling added 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Iowa led, 38-31, at halftime behind 12 points and nine rebounds from Doolittle. The 6-foot-4 post was 6-of-6 from the free throw line; the Hawkeyes were 12-of-12 from the line as a team. The proficiency from the line didn’t return in the second half as the Hawkeyes made just 11 of 21. But their success from the field proved insurmountable.
In the last three seasons, Iowa is 4-2 in NCAA Tournament games. In 12 seasons with the Hawkeyes, Bluder is 7-11 in NCAA matchups. It is a resume that now includes a trip to the Sweet 16.
“Do I look a lot lighter?” Bluder asked. “I think there’s a monkey off my back. I feel like I might look a little bit lighter right now. You know, we’ve been there so many times, and just not been able to finish it.”