Nov. 15, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — No one promised there wouldn’t be growing pains.
But on Sunday, fans of the University of Iowa women’s basketball team watched the youngsters develop a bit more and the veterans use their savviness to down Tennessee Martin, 62-56, in what turned out to be the championship of the Hawkeye Challenge on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes (2-0 overall) weathered a few rough spots, none bigger than a 10-point hole they found themselves in after 5 minutes, 41 seconds. But on a day when junior Ally Disterhoft joined the 1,000-point club and rookies Tania Davis and Megan Gustafson logged more beneficial minutes, Iowa found a way to shake the Skyhawks and win its 20th consecutive home game.
“I don’t like starting in that hole,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We had slow starts both games, so we have to fix that. We have to be ready to go right off the bat. We missed good shots, we had some good looks. The nice thing is that we didn’t panic and kept our composure.”
In the third quarter, Iowa made 6-of-9 field goals and 8-of-10 free throws to take a 47-40 lead after being tied, 26-26, at halftime. Alexa Kastanek sank two 3-point field goals in the fourth quarter, including the game’s final points with 1:49 to go.
Disterhoft, the Hawkeye Challenge Most Valuable Player, was joined on the all-tournament team by Gustafson and senior Kali Peschel.
Davis shined against UT Martin (1-1), although she wasn’t selected to the six-member all-tournament team. Davis led four Hawkeyes in double figures with 12 points and, at 5-foot-4, she shared team-high rebounding honors with six. One of her signature plays occurred early in the third quarter when she took a defensive rebound, raced up court, and made a no-look pass to Kastanek, who drained a 3-point field goal giving the Hawkeyes a four-point lead.
“I feel much more comfortable,” Davis said. “The first shot I took (Friday) I was a little shaky, but the first shot today I was confident that it was going in. After Friday I was settled into the offense, got to know what the collegiate game is like.”
Kastanek (3-of-6 3-pointers) and Disterhoft scored 11 points apiece, Gustafson added 10. Disterhoft pulled down six rebounds, Davis had four assists. Kastanek scored Iowa’s first points with two free throws at the 5:39 mark in the first quarter.
The game was tied at the break after Iowa outscored UT Martin, 24-14, over the final 13 minutes of the first half. Davis provided a spark with back-to-back 3-point field goals and four rebounds in the first quarter; she had 10 points at halftime.
Disterhoft scored the 999th point of her career in the first quarter on a layup off an assist from Gustafson. She joined the 1,000-point club with 3:59 left in the second quarter on a driving layup that pulled the Hawkeyes within two points at 20-18.
“It’s an honor, but I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without my amazing teammates,” Disterhoft said. “I have played with some incredible girls over the past two years who have been able to put me in that position to score. It is something that is a huge credit to my teammates, they are the ones who make you great.”
The Hawkeyes grabbed a brief, 26-23, lead with 67 seconds left before halftime after Disterhoft stole the ball near midcourt, made a layup, and converted a conventional 3-point play. A minute earlier at the other side of the court, Davis also turned a steal into a successful layup.
Iowa shot 33.3 percent from the field in the first half (9-of-27), including 3-of-14 from 3-point range. The Hawkeyes finished shooting 42.9 percent from the field (21-of-49) and 86.7 percent from the line (13-of-15). They made 7-of-24 3-point field goals.
UT Martin was led by DaiJia Ruffin with 17 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. The Skyhawks defeated North Dakota, 84-58, on Saturday in its first game of the Hawkeye Challenge.
The Hawkeyes are back on the home court Thursday against Western Illinois.