By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After withstanding an opening flurry, the University of Iowa women’s basketball delivered a knockout punch to Kent State, winning 83-48, on Tuesday in front of 3,563 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes used a 40-5 run over a 12-minute span in the first half to conclude the nonconference schedule with a record of 9-4; Kent State dipped to 6-5.
Iowa went on a 13-0 run over the final 2:59 of the first quarter to grab a 17-13 lead. That seemed improbable when the Hawkeyes opened the game by missing their first four shots, were out-rebounded 6-1, and trailed 9-0 three minutes in.
“I was proud of the way they fought back,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We had great momentum going into halftime, so sometimes you get a start like that and everything can go downhill from there, but at least we turned it around and I’m proud of them for that.”
A 3-point field goal by freshman Makenzie Meyer with 26 seconds left in the first quarter put Iowa on top for the first time — and for good. Kent State’s scoring drought spanned 6:06 and by the time McKenna Stevens converted a jumper with 7:11 left in the second quarter, the Golden Flashes saw their 13-4 lead turn into a 26-15 deficit.
“Mackenzie went in and led our team well and did a great job,” Bluder said.
Meyer made 4-of-7 from distance and scored a career-high 12 points in 21 minutes.
“It felt good. I knew our team needed to turn it around and I was happy that I was able to make some shots,” Meyer said.
The Hawkeyes added 27 points in the second quarter, their most in a quarter since scoring 28 in the second quarter against Iowa State on Dec. 7. Iowa made nine of its final 11 field goals of the first half and led 44-21 at the break. The Hawkeyes made 12-of-18 field goals in the second quarter, held Kent State to 3-of-16 shooting and dominated on the boards, 18-3.
The largest lead for Iowa in the first half was 26 (after a layup by freshman Amanda Ollinger) and its largest lead of the game was 37 (after a jumper by Ollinger). After a sluggish third quarter, Iowa outscored the Golden Flashes 28-6 over the final 10 minutes.
Megan Gustafson and Ally Disterhoft were reliable once again for the Hawkeyes. Gustafson scored 20 points with seven rebounds and Disterhoft scored 18 points with six rebounds. The duo combined to shoot 16-of-23 from the field.
It was the first career start for junior Christina Buttenham, who turned in a solid 18 minutes by scoring five points with six rebounds. She had five rebounds in eight minutes in the third and fourth quarters.
“I had jitters in the first half and had some turnovers and a few missed shots,” Buttenham said. “But the second half I was able to pull it together.”
The Hawkeyes handed out 21 assists on 33 made field goals (Kent State had six). Freshman Kathleen Doyle had six assists and sophomore Tania Davis added five.
Iowa shot 49.3 percent from the field (33-of-67) and held Kent State to 24.7 percent (19-of-77). Larissa Lurken paced the Golden Flashes with 20 points, but she made just 7-of-27 field goals and was 2-of-11 from 3-point range.
After sitting out the entire 2015-16 season because of injury, sophomore Carly Mohns returned to the court. She scored one point with a rebound in three minutes.
The Hawkeyes have a few days off before returning to the court Dec. 28 at Illinois. The Illini are 5-7 and play at Ohio on Dec. 22.