By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Senior Ally Disterhoft and sophomore Megan Gustafson combined for 45 points and 21 rebounds as the University of Iowa defeated Rutgers for a fifth consecutive time Thursday, 71-57, in front of 3,884 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Gustafson posted her 11th double-double of the season with 25 points and 12 rebounds (six offensive); she made 10-of-13 field goals. Disterhoft poured in 20 points with nine rebounds; she was 7-of-11 from the field.
“Our goal is to have five people in double figures every game. We want balanced scoring,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Some games it happens and some games it doesn’t. Sometimes you go to what’s working.”
The Hawkeyes improved to 14-8 overall, 5-4 in the Big Ten Conference by winning their third game in the last four outings. Rutgers is 6-17, 3-7.
The Hawkeyes got off to a fast start, scoring the first nine points and leading 19-9 after the first quarter. Iowa was on top 36-27 at halftime with Disterhoft and Gustafson scoring 12 points apiece. Both were 5-of-6 from the field, helping the Hawkeyes shoot 58.3 percent (14-of-24) after 20 minutes.
Iowa was 21-of-38 from the field through three quarters (55.3 percent) but did most of its damage from the free throw line in the final 10 minutes. While the Hawkeyes were just 2-of-11 from the field in the fourth quarter, they made 11-of-12 from the line.
“We attacked well,” Bluder said. “We got the ball inside and that gives us opportunities to shoot free throws. But I do think we’re pretty smart at attacking and drawing those fouls, too.”
Gustafson matched a career-high with 25 points against Rutgers, four days after shooting 3-of-10 from the field at Maryland.
“Coming off a not-so-good shooting night against Maryland motivated me,” Gustafson said. “My teammates and coaches believe in me so I kept working hard. I knew (Rutgers) was going to have strong posts, so I needed to bring my strength as much as I could and to use my foot work and that worked.”
For Disterhoft, it was her first 20-point game since dropping 24 at Drake on Dec. 18. It is her fifth 20-point game of the season.
“That confidence is there and you have to go into every game with that shooter’s mentality,” Disterhoft said. “We all do a great job of that no matter if we have missed 10 in a row or made 10 in a row. My teammates count on me to hit those shots if they are there.”
Rutgers never led, but whittled Iowa’s lead to four at 55-51 with just under nine minutes to play.
“For the most part we played the game we wanted to play,” said Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. “When you have (nine) turnovers, that’s commendable on our part. We have to get to the point where we spot people, overcome whatever we have to deal with, and find a way to win. I was proud of the way we hung in there.”
Aliyah Jeune paced the Scarlet Knights with 17 points.
The first time these teams met this season (a 71-59 win by Iowa on Jan. 17), Rutgers held a 37-28 edge in rebounding and corralled 23 offensive rebounds. The Hawkeyes won the battle of the boards Thursday, 37-30.
“For us to come out here and out-rebound them speaks volumes about their focus,” Bluder said. “We crashed extremely well and got 42 percent of offensive rebounds, which is great against a team like Rutgers.”
Up next for Iowa is a game at Michigan on Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. (CT). The Wolverines (18-5, 7-2) are undefeated in 11 home games this season and have won three in a row and five of their last six.