By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Unlike eating an Oreo cookie, where you can savor the sweet crème filling in the middle and toss away the top and bottom wafers, the University of Iowa women’s basketball team had to swallow all 40 minutes of a 73-58 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
UI head coach Lisa Bluder wanted to take back the first few minutes (when the Irish led by 14 points with 1:52 left in the first quarter) and the final minutes (when the Irish put the game away with a 16-9 stretch in the fourth quarter).
“I thought the middle was pretty good,” Bluder said after the Hawkeyes fell to 5-3 overall in front of 3,809 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Notre Dame is undefeated in seven games.
Iowa and Notre Dame both scored a combined 34 points in the second and third quarters. The Hawkeyes whittled a 14-point deficit to two (50-48) following a made jump shot by junior Chase Coley with 2:37 left in the third quarter. Coley finished with four points and four rebounds in nine minutes.
“We fought hard and we fought back from a deficit to make it a good game,” Bluder said.
UI senior Ally Disterhoft led all players with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. She made 3-of-5 from 3-point range and handed out a team-high five assists. Sophomore Megan Gustafson registered her fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. She was 7-of-9 from the field.
“(Gustafson) was able to get free when we weren’t double-teaming her and that was the problem,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think on drives we went to help and didn’t rotate and she got free for quite a few open free throw jumpers and rebounds. She did a great job on the boards, too.”
After grabbing just one offensive rebound in the first half, Iowa pulled down eight in the second: three by Gustafson and two each by junior Christina Buttenham and sophomore Tania Davis. With a 39-35 advantage on the boards, the Hawkeyes became the first team this season to out-rebound Notre Dame. And after committing 15 first-half turnovers, Iowa had only eight over the final 20 minutes.
“We kept fighting,” Bluder said. “It sounds simple that you should fight every second you’re on the floor, but some kids don’t. When they are down, they don’t. Our kids kept fighting, and I wouldn’t expect anything else. I’m still going to acknowledge it when it’s there.”
Iowa out-shot Notre Dame from the field (45.3 percent to 44.8 percent) and the Hawkeyes were shooting 56 percent from the field in the first half. In atypical fashion, Iowa shot better from the field than it did from the line (making just 6-of-16 free throws).
“We’ve got to hit free throws,” Bluder said. “Shooting (37.5) percent from the free throw line, you think, what a difference mentally that would have made had we had six, seven, eight more (made) free throws? It makes it a totally different game at the end.”
Notre Dame had three players score in double figures: Brianna Turner (15), Arike Ogunbowale (14), and Lindsay Allen (11 points, eight assists, five steals).
Iowa continues its four-game home stand with an intra-state game against Northern Iowa on Sunday at 2 p.m. (CT). The Hawkeyes follow that with home games against Iowa State (Dec. 7) and Robert Morris (Dec. 9).
Bluder has more practice time on her holiday wish list.
“The hard part this time of year is that we never get to practice,” Bluder said. “All we do is play and travel and prepare for the next opponent, and we never get to practice. That probably sounds like an excuse, but honestly, we need to practice, and I am looking forward to the finals break so we can get practices in.”