By DARREN MILLER
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — There were too many missed shots (38) and turnovers (23) for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team to overcome Wednesday during a Big Ten season-opening 70-65 loss to Illinois in front of 1,584 at Assembly Hall.
The Hawkeyes dip to 9-5 on the season, despite double-double performances by senior Ally Disterhoft and sophomore Megan Gustafson. Disterhoft scored 11 points with 12 rebounds and Gustafson poured in a game-high 21 points with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Iowa had won its two previous conference openers against Penn State in 2014-15 and at Nebraska last season.
“This is not the way we wanted to start the (Big Ten) season by any means,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Our defensive intensity was really low, especially to begin the game.”
The Hawkeyes allowed 23 points in the first 10 minutes. Illinois (6-8) made 8-of-15 field goals in the first quarter, but Iowa countered by sinking half of its attempts (7-of-14). Freshman Kathleen Doyle owned the hot hand early for the Hawkeyes, making 3-of-4 field goals (and both 3-point attempts) for eight points.
Doyle finished with 12 points and was joined by junior Christina Buttenham (12 points) in double figures. Buttenham made 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
“Christina hitting four 3s was nice,” Bluder said.
Bluder was also satisfied with the way Iowa crashed the boards (46 to 28 advantage) and shot from the free throw line (12-of-14). The Hawkeyes pulled down 19 offensive rebounds — six by Gustafson and four by Disterhoft.
The Hawkeyes also distributed the ball. They were credited with 20 assists on 23 made field goals, led by Doyle with six and sophomore Tania Davis with five.
Iowa received just nine points off the bench: four by junior Chase Coley, three by senior Alexa Kastanek, and two by sophomore Hannah Stewart.
The Hawkeyes shot 37.7 percent from the field (23-of-61).
“This is a tough loss,” Bluder said. “We’re kind of behind the 8-ball to start the Big Ten.”
Illinois was led in scoring by Alex Wittinger (18 points), Petra Holesinska (16), and Brandi Beasley (14). That trio combined for 12 steals.
Iowa returns to action Saturday against Nebraska inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tipoff is 2 p.m. (CT).
“We are really going to need (fan support) after this loss,” Bluder said. “We need to rebound with a home victory.”
The Cornhuskers took a 4-8 record into their Big Ten opener against Northwestern on Wednesday evening. The Hawkeyes have won the last three games in the series.