By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The biggest game of the season for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team began Step-Up Thursday as several Hawkeyes turned in key performances during an 87-83 overtime victory against Michigan State in front of 4,384 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Here’s a sample of who stepped up to lead Iowa (15-9 overall, 6-5 Big Ten) to its fourth win in the last six games:
Senior Ally Disterhoft, who recorded her second double-double of the season with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
Freshman Makenzie Meyer, who made 12-of-14 free throws in the game and was 11-of-12 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Her 14 points are a career high.
Junior Chase Coley, who benefitted from a season-high 29 minutes to score 10 points with five rebounds. She entered the game shooting 42.1 percent from the free throw line, but was 4-for-4 against the Spartans, including two with 14.8 seconds left in regulation.
Freshman Bre Cera, who made her first start in 11 games and opened overtime by making a 3-point field goal that gave Iowa the lead for good.
“A lot of players stepped up big,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Bre’s 3 to start the overtime and then Ally comes down and makes a 3, that was big and gave us good momentum. We made 10 of the 12 free throws in overtime; proud of the way a young team responded in this pressure situation.”
The Hawkeyes attempted six field goals in overtime, five fewer than Michigan State. But Iowa went to the line 12 times in the final five minutes and converted 32-of-41 for the game.
Michigan State falls to 16-8, 6-5 despite a 32-point, 11-rebound performance from Tori Jankoska.
Iowa spotted the Spartans a 12-point lead twice during the early stages of the first quarter, but battled back to tie the game at 28 after two free throws by Disterhoft with 2:16 left in the first half. Michigan State led 33-30 at the break, but Megan Gustafson led all scorers with 10 points, making 5-of-6 field goals. The Hawkeyes held a 16-8 edge in paint points.
“It was not a very pretty start of this game,” Bluder said. “I called the timeout and I got on them pretty good, but they responded. You don’t know how freshmen are going to take that when you’re kind of getting on them and gut-checking them, and they did it.”
Disterhoft gave Iowa its first lead at the 7-minute mark of third quarter when she buried a 3-pointer. The Hawkeyes extended their advantage to 50-41 when Coley made a turnaround jumper with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was the first time this season that the Hawkeyes played without sophomore point guard Tania Davis, who torn an ACL on Sunday. Disterhoft was the lone upperclassman in the starting lineup and all things considered, might have turned in one of the best games of her career.
“It was nice being able to close out this game like we did,” Disterhoft said. “We could have had the (win) at the end of regulation, but Tori (Jankoska) stepped up and hit some huge shots. For a young, young team to band together and to finish the overtime like we did was impressive. A sigh of relief, yes, but really excited and happy with this win.”
The Hawkeyes made 7-of-16 3-point field goals — their best percentage from distance in 14 games. Disterhoft (25), Gustafson (18), Meyer (14), Kathleen Doyle (12), and Coley scored in double figures. Meyer had a team-high four assists, but she will be remembered most for coming up clutch from the free throw line.
“Those are easy points to get and easy shots,” Meyer said. “A lot of times it comes down to free throws and layups at the end of the game and it did today. I knew I had to put them in.”
Iowa returns to action Sunday at Ohio State with an 11 a.m. (CT) start. The Buckeyes (21-5) have won seven games in a row and are 14-2 at home this season.