Dec. 2, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The way the Hawkeyes played Wednesday at John Paul Jones Arena, they might rethink ending their five-game, 11-day road trip.
Let’s not go that far. The No. 24 University of Iowa women’s basketball team (7-1 overall) has won 21 straight at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and welcomes a return to Mediacom Court on Sunday. But the Hawkeyes looked right at home on the road in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday, whipping Virginia, 85-73, behind 22 points from junior Alexa Kastanek and 18 from junior Ally Disterhoft.
The Cavaliers, despite receiving a game-high 28 points from Mikayla Venson, lost their third straight and fell to 5-3.
Iowa led 40-35 at halftime before Kastanek scored the team’s first 12 points out of the break to match a career-high with 22. She also scored 22 on Nov. 22 at Northern Iowa.
The Hawkeyes improved to 3-0 all-time against Virginia, 3-6 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and finished the road trip with a 4-1 record.
“I am so proud of our women,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “To come out and play as strong as we did tonight — I think you have to give a shout out to (strength and conditioning) coach Gabby Quiggle. Our players looked strong, in great shape, and we looked in control the whole time. I liked the way our team came out and played.”
The Hawkeyes also owned a 36-25 advantage on the boards. They have been even or outrebounded six of their eight opponents this season.
“I was happy with our rebounding,” Bluder said. “We out-rebounded them offensively (13 to 9) and defensively (23 to 16).”
That wasn’t the only area of improvement since the Lone Star Showcase from Nov. 26-28. Seven Hawkeyes combined to hand out 17 assists Wednesday after averaging 13 per game in their last three outings. Disterhoft and sophomore Whitney Jennings both had four assists and senior Kali Peschel added three.
“We had some beautiful, unselfish plays and that gets us back to the Iowa basketball we love to see,” Bluder said. “Making that one more pass for that wide-open shot.”
The Hawkeyes made 57 percent from the field in the second half and 52.7 percent for the game (29-of-55). They were 10-of-24 from distance, the most 3-point field goals in a game this season. Kastanek was 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, sophomore Christina Buttenham was 2-of-4, and Peschel was 2-of-7.
Iowa returns home Sunday to face Robert Morris (4-3) of the North East Conference. Tip-off is 1 p.m. (CT).
“We want to keep building on that unselfish style.” Bluder said. “I’m excited about where we are right now and I’m very happy about going back to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.”