By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — How’s that for a fast start?
After beginning the Big Ten season 1-2 and with No. 3 Maryland coming to town Saturday, the University of Iowa women’s basketball team knew it had to get out of the gate quickly Wednesday against Illinois. Fourteen days earlier, the Illini defeated the Hawkeyes, 70-65, in Champaign, Illinois.
How’s this for an opening 10 minutes?
Iowa shot 76.9 percent from the field, owned a 12-1 advantage on the boards, and led on the scoreboard, 25-10. The early onslaught propelled the Hawkeyes (11-6, 2-2) to a 78-58 victory in front of 3,834 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Illinois fell to 7-10, 2-2.
“We came out throwing the first punches,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “At their place (Dec. 28), they definitely came out throwing the punches and we were on our heels. Today was reversed.”
Iowa’s fast start was equaled by its 25-point fourth quarter that saw the Hawkeyes shoot 57.1 percent from the field and make 3-of-4 3-pointers.
“I thought the first and fourth quarters were outstanding,” Bluder said.
Sophomore post Megan Gustafson recorded her ninth double-double of the season (and 18th of her career) with 20 points and 15 rebounds. She made 8-of-13 field goals and is shooting 66.5 percent for the season (125-of-188).
“At the end of the day it is definitely redemption,” Gustafson said. “We worked as hard as we could to earn that.”
It was a career high for freshman Kathleen Doyle, who scored 18 points with four assists. Doyle was 3-for-3 from the line with a second left before halftime and then sank a 3-point field goal at the third quarter buzzer to put Iowa ahead, 53-42.
“I am more comfortable getting the experience,” Doyle said. “The flow of the college game is way different than high school, obviously. Once I have a little more experience under my belt I feel more comfortable and confident out there.”
Iowa led 39-24 at halftime and Gustafson (12 points) and DFast Start + oyle (10) already reached double figures in scoring. Gustafson added eight rebounds, helping the Hawkeyes to a 24-15 edge on the boards. They would finish the game by out-rebounding Illinois, 45-29.
Senior Ally Disterhoft and freshman Makenzie Meyer also scored in double figures with 14 and 12 points. Disterhoft pulled down seven rebounds with three assists. Meyer was making her first start since Nov. 20 and converted 4-of-5 3-point field goals with four assists. Sophomore guard Tania Davis scored seven points and handed out four assists and sophomore post Hannah Stewart made both field goal attempts with two rebounds in six minutes.
“Our offensive and defensive intensity was great at both ends,” Bluder said. “I thought we pushed, even though we didn’t get a lot out of transition, I thought we got them on their heels quickly.”
Alex Wittinger led Illinois with 17 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots.
Iowa remains home Saturday against the Terrapins. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. (CT). It is the final time this season that the Hawkeyes will play back-to-back home games.
“The next big test is going against a team like Maryland and bringing that energy against a great team like that, because you’re going to need it,” Bluder said.
Maryland defeated Penn State, 89-83, on Wednesday in College Park, Maryland.