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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A postseason run benefits the youngsters on the University of Iowa women’s basketball team. The veterans are thriving, too.
Senior Alexa Kastanek scored a season-high 19 points with five 3-point field goals and senior Ally Disterhoft added 15 points and four assists to lead the Hawkeyes (20-13) to the WNIT quarterfinals with an 80-62 victory over Colorado (17-16) on Thursday on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa shot 56 percent from the field through three quarters (25-of-45) and built a 25-point lead with 6:44 left in the third quarter. It added up to the Hawkeyes’ eighth consecutive victory at home and the program’s eighth 20-win season in the last decade.
Thursday’s attendance of 3,735 was 509 more than the Hawkeyes played in front of in their WNIT home opener against Missouri State and 1,441 more than South Dakota in the second round.
“We love playing at Carver, especially with the fan support,” Disterhoft said. “Fans don’t know it, but the energy they bring influences the game, and I know that our team gets excited to play in front of our awesome fans.
“Every game we talk about defending our home court. That’s important to us and to our coaching staff.”
Colorado’s precision from the outside was circled on Iowa’s defensive scouting report. The Buffaloes entered the game averaging 6.6 3-point field goals a game, and although Colorado sank 6-of-18 from distance, it was Iowa that made the most noise from 3-point range with nine. Kastanek led the way — going 5-for-9 — freshman Makenzie Meyer was 3-of-7 and Disterhoft was 1-of-2.
“The first one was open, my feet were set,” Kastanek said. “When that first one falls and you get the lid off the rim, that’s when you know your percentages and just keep shooting.”
It is just the second time this season Kastanek has scored in double figures. She had 17 points (and five 3-pointers) during a 71-30 win over Massachusetts on Nov. 19.
“I’m so happy for Lex; her senior year and having a game like that is absolutely perfect for her,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said.
Iowa went on a 17-0 run in the second quarter, thanks the 3-point field goals by Disterhoft, Meyer (two), and Kastanek (two).
The Hawkeyes never trailed and led by as many as 22 points in the first half — coincidentally, that margin came on a 3-point field goal by Kastanek. It was one of three 3-pointers she made during the first 20 minutes. Kastanek led all scorers at the break with 13 points and Disterhoft had 11.
Iowa’s balance thrilled Bluder, who registered the 699th victory of her career. Meyer added 13 points, sophomore Megan Gustafson scored 12, and freshman Kathleen Doyle had nine points with three steals.
“We have almost five people in double figures, that’s terrific,” Bluder said. “They were so focused on Megan coming into this game that it opened up the 3s, and wow, isn’t that a perfect time for us to hit our 3s? We were getting some pretty wide-open 3s.”
Gustafson pulled down eight rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes, sophomore Hannah Stewart had five rebounds (three offensive) to go with six points. Gustafson became the fourth Hawkeye in program history to score more than 600 points in a single season (she now has 609) and the first to do so since 1990. She joins Cindy Haugejorde (693; 1979-80), Michelle Edwards (621; 1987-88), and Franthea Price (614; 1989-90).
The Hawkeyes made 59 percent of their field goal attempts (17-of-29) and 8-of-9 free throws in the first half. They were 6-of-14 from 3-point range and held advantages of 21-10 in bench scoring and 16-8 in paint points.
Colorado was led by Haley Smith with 25 points. She was 3-of-3 from 3-point range.
Iowa will host a WNIT quarterfinal game Sunday at 2 p.m. (CT) against Washington State (15-19).