By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Five and a half minutes remained in Iowa’s Senior Day women’s basketball game and the Hawkeyes trailed Wisconsin, 58-56. A spark was needed, especially after Iowa turned the ball over because of a shot clock violation on its previous possession.
Enter Alexa Kastanek and Ally Disterhoft, the two Hawkeye seniors on the court at the time. Kastenek stole the ball, sent an outlet pass to freshman Makenzie Meyer, who found Disterhoft, who converted a conventional three-point play to give Iowa the lead for good. The Hawkeyes won, 71-60, on Sunday in front of 5,603 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I was praying they didn’t call a foul,” Kastanek said. “Chase (Coley) was on the outside and I ended up grabbing (the ball) on the inside and then tried not to fall out of bounds. Mak (Makenzie Meyer) was screaming for the ball, so I hit her and watched from half court as it all unfolded. That was something special.”
Kastanek was just warming up. She sank two 3-point field goals within 46 seconds of each other to put Iowa ahead, 65-58, with 3:38 remaining.
“That is the shooter’s mentality,” Kastanek said. “You know that percentages are in your favor if you miss one; the next one, percentage-wise, is probably going to go in.
“The first (3-pointer) I hit, the shot clock was winding down, it was a little further out than a normal shot, and a little more contested than I would take earlier in the shot clock. But it going down makes you want to have a heat check the next time down the court.”
The momentum-changing 3s were instrumental in Iowa closing the game on a 17-2 run to finish the regular season 17-12 overall, 8-8 in the Big Ten Conference. Wisconsin had its two-game winning streak snapped and the Badgers dropped to 8-21, 3-13.
Iowa led by as many as nine points in the first half and took a 38-31 advantage into halftime. But Wisconsin outscored the Hawkeyes, 21-13, in the third quarter to take a 52-51 lead with 10 minutes to play.
“We did a lot of nice things in that fourth quarter and it was fitting to see Lex (Kastanek) hit those two 3s,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “That’s like one of those storybook-type of things: your senior comes in, hits a couple of 3s in that fourth quarter and gives us great life.”
Kastanek finished with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and 2-of-3 from distance. Sophomore Megan Gustafson registered her 15th double-double in 29 games with 22 points and 14 rebounds; Disterhoft scored 19 points with six rebounds and three blocked shots. Eleven of her points came in the first half.
Sophomore Hannah Stewart turned in an efficient two-minute stretch of the first quarter when she went 3-of-3 from the field with an offensive rebound. Stewart finished with eight points and three rebounds in seven minutes. Coley grabbed four offensive rebounds in 19 minutes.
“Hannah’s seven minutes were big; she used her time well in there,” Bluder said. “She did a good job on the glass and ran transition, so that was nice to see. Chase got four offensive rebounds, too, and that was good to see.”
Freshman Kathleen Doyle contributed a game-high six assists with two steals.
Iowa shot 49.1 percent for the game and was 7-of-10 from the field in the fourth quarter. Gustafson was 4-of-4, Kastanek was 2-of-2, and Disterhoft was 1-of-1 during the final 10 minutes.
“It’s awesome to watch them hit those big shots, especially at the end,” Gustafson said of the seniors. “Throughout their four years here they have been excellent leaders and tonight that showed.”
Wisconsin was led by Avyanna Young with 22 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
The eighth-seeded Hawkeyes return to action Thursday at the Big Ten Tournament against ninth-seeded Northwestern (19-10, 8-8) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. (CT). Iowa defeated the Wildcats, 78-59, on Feb. 16 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.