By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The depth and balance University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder predicted in the preseason was displayed Sunday during a 61-35 exhibition victory over Lewis University on Mediacom Court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Nine of the 13 Hawkeyes that saw action made at least one field goal; 10 played between 12 and 23 minutes and another was on the court for nine minutes. And when Iowa went on a 23-6 late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, the only thing in doubt was the margin of victory.
“We have terrific depth and balance in this basketball program and we have to figure how to use it,” Bluder said. “It’s not a strength unless you use it; we’re still putting the pieces together and figuring that out, but we’re on track.”
The Hawkeyes opened the season’s scoring when sophomore Megan Gustafson sank a hook shot in the lane off an assist from sophomore Tania Davis. It was reminiscent of the successful combination in 2015-16 when both were named to the Big Ten Conference’s All-Freshman Team.
“Tania had 10 assists and Megan has a double-double right off the bat,” Bluder said. “There were a lot of great things that happened, so we’re excited to move forward and open it up for real on Friday night.”
Gustafson scored a game-high 16 points and added a game-high 11 rebounds. She made 8-of-9 field goal attempts. Senior Ally Disterhoft was 7-of-8 from the field scored 15 points with four assists. Davis scored nine points to go with 10 assists.
Iowa’s starters were Disterhoft, Davis, Gustafson, and freshmen Bre Cera and Kathleen Doyle. Bluder employed a platoon system that kept legs fresh and it will also keep Friday’s opponent — Oral Roberts — guessing what personnel the Hawkeyes will have on the court and when. Bluder is unsure if she will use the same starters in the regular-season opener against the Golden Eagles.
“I really don’t know. I have a few days to work on that,” she said. “I’ll watch film (Sunday night) and evaluate statistically what combinations were better and we’ll go from there.”
The Hawkeyes shot 46 percent from the field for the game (29-of-63) and held Lewis to 25.9-percent shooting for the game (14-of-54). The Flyers made just 2-of-13 field goals in the first quarter.
“I liked our defensive intensity,” Bluder said. “Last year we weren’t the best defensive team and I thought we came out and played terrific defense in both our exhibition games. I’m pleased with the way that is going.”
Iowa had a closed exhibition Oct. 30 against Creighton.
Holding Lewis to 35 points is quite an accomplishment. Last season the Flyers — a Division II institution — won 28 games and averaged 70.7 points per game. They were led in scoring by All-American Jamie Johnson, with 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting (1-of-7 from 3-point range). She committed five turnovers in 35 minutes.
“We were working on help defense and we told them to be aware of (Johnson) and that was it,” Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes were plus-30 in rebounding (54-24) and gathered 20 offensive rebounds, five by freshman Amanda Ollinger. Sophomore Hannah Stewart had four offensive boards.
Iowa led 10-6 after the first quarter with Davis and Gustafson scoring four points apiece. The Hawkeyes extended their lead to 24-16 at halftime with seven Hawkeyes scoring at least one field goal and Gustafson leading the way with six points. Iowa was plus-13 in rebounding (24-11) with Gustafson pulling down six and junior Chase Coley adding five.
The Hawkeyes were comfortably ahead 40-25 after three quarters with Disterhoft leading the way with 11 points. They outscored Lewis 37-19 in the second half.
Iowa opens its regular season Friday against Oral Roberts inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tipoff is 6 p.m. (CT). The Hawkeyes host Hampton on Sunday at noon.