Nov. 13, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kali Peschel provided a cure for a season-opening slow start by the University of Iowa women’s basketball team Friday on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeye senior compiled a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds with 2 minutes, 8 seconds left before halftime and No. 23 Iowa broke a close game open in the second half to defeat North Dakota, 83-61, in the first game of the Hawkeye Challenge.
It is the 19th consecutive home win for the Hawkeyes (1-0), who, for the 16th straight time, won their season opener. They did it with five players scoring in double figures, led by junior Ally Disterhoft with 20 points and five assists. Disterhoft missed Sunday’s exhibition game against Upper Iowa with a minor injury.
“It was nice to be back out there and playing with teammates,” Disterhoft said. “That is what you miss when you are out. I felt pretty close to 100 percent, I wasn’t worried about it; once you get past the first couple minutes it’s just playing basketball.”
Peschel finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds (eight offensive). She also made 3-of-6 3-point field goals.
“We need (Kali) and we have told her that we need her to step up and be more of a leader,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “She was voted captain by her peers, so we have that element. But then also the scoring element and she knows that we need her.”
By halftime Peschel had made 5-of-8 field goals, 3-of-4 3-point field goals with six offensive rebounds.
“I found a way to score getting offensive boards and my teammates did a great job setting me up for my shots,” Peschel said. “It was a fun game and we had a fun crowd out there (4,358 in attendance), so I’m glad we could pull off a win.”
Bluder described a “night and day” difference between halves. Iowa led 33-31 at the break and the game was tied at 37 with 7:36 left in the third quarter before Disterhoft drained a 3-pointer to put the Hawkeyes ahead for good over the final 17:18.
“I liked our second half a lot better than our first half,” Bluder said. “The team came out (in the second half) and made adjustments. That is outstanding.”
The Hawkeyes made just 13-of-38 field goals in the first half and were outscored 16-4 off the bench. UI sophomore guard Whitney Jennings scored 11 of her 14 points in the first half. The Hawkeyes made 18-of-33 field goals in the second half, with Disterhoft scoring 15 points and sophomore Christina Buttenham adding 10.
After handing out six assists in the first half, Iowa had 13 in the second; the Hawkeyes committed nine turnovers in the first half but just three in the second.
“Collectively we knew we needed to move the ball more and be more aggressive on defense and get on the boards to help Kali out on that end,” Disterhoft said. “We came out like a different team in the second half and that is what propelled us.”
Freshman Megan Gustafson, who scored 19 points with 11 rebounds in the exhibition game, added 12 points and seven rebounds. She made 5-of-6 field goals.
“The exhibition game helped me get used to the atmosphere,” Gustafson said. “It was fun playing in front of the fans and I had a great time getting to know what it’s like to play in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.”
Iowa won the rebound battle, 45-31, and held a 34-12 advantage in paint points.
The Hawkeyes return to action Sunday against Tennessee Martin at 1 p.m. (CT). The Skyhawks take on North Dakota on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
“We will rest a little bit and get some ice baths (Friday), but basically we turn around and have practice from 9 to 11 (Saturday) morning,” Bluder said. “It’s a quick turnaround.”