By JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s basketball team opened up the 2016 Hawkeye Challenge with a record-setting 71-30 victory over Massachusetts on Saturday morning inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes improved to 4-0 while the Minutewomen fell to 1-2 overall. Iowa held Massachusetts to 30 points, tying a Carver-Hawkeye Arena record for fewest points allowed. The Hawkeyes allowed just 10 points in the first half – the fewest points allowed in a first half in program history.
“I thought we did a nice job in the first half,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Defensively we made them take contested shots and may have gotten into their head after that. We kept bringing people in and bringing energy off the bench. When the next group would come in, they would attack and I love that because they brought so much energy to the court.”
The Hawkeye defense smothered a Massachusetts offense that shot 19 percent (11-for-57) from the field and 14 percent (1-for-7) from the 3-point line.
Iowa had its first look at a team that ran primarily a zone defense and it had no problems running their offense.
“It’s having patience,” Bluder said. “Sometimes you get in a rush when you’re a team that likes to score points. Sometimes you need to pull it out and understand that you can run your offense and get a good shot rather than the first shot you have.”
Senior Alexa Kastanek led an Iowa attack that took the lead early and never looked back. The Lincoln, Nebraska native, scored a game-high 17 points, shooting 6-of-11 from the field and 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes went 29-for-62 from the field (47 percent) and tallied 24 assists, led by senior Ally Disterhoft’s five.
“Every shooter really loves to see a zone because you don’t have that hand in your face,” Kastanek said. “You don’t have to keep coming off screens to get the three, so knowing that my teammates could get me open and get me shot was really nice.”
Freshman Hannah Stewart tied a career-high with 10 points that was set earlier this year, shooting 5-of-8, and sophomore Megan Gustafson paced Iowa in rebounds for the fourth straight game with eight.
“My teammates did a great job of looking inside,” Gustafson said. “We had a pretty good inside-out game. When I got the ball inside and they doubled, I was able to look outside”
Massachusetts was led by Maggie Mulligan with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Iowa was aided by an energetic morning crowd. The head Hawkeye took notice of the crowd’s liveliness.
“I just want to take a second and thank everybody that came out today,” Bluder said. “It was a sudden time change and for everybody to respond to that, kind of give up watching the football team after their great win last week and come here and watch us and support us in Carver, it really means a lot.”
The Hawkeyes return to action in Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the Hawkeye Challenge Championship game tomorrow, November 20 against South Dakota State. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. (CT).