By DARREN MILLER
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Assists were up. Turnovers were down.
And the No. 17 University of Iowa women’s basketball team returned to its winning ways Sunday, knocking off Illinois, 84-71, in front of 1,646 in the State Farm Center.
The Hawkeyes improved to 15-2 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten. The winning remedy included 24 assists against just seven turnovers.
“After the Maryland game (an 80-64 loss on Jan. 4) we told them our turnovers were too high and our assists were too low,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “What do we do? We come out and have a season-low seven turnovers and 24 assists.”
Junior center Megan Gustafson navigated through persistent double and triple-teams to score 34 points with 12 rebounds for her NCAA-leading 16th double-double of the season.
“I try to relax before every game and know I can handle everything,” Gustafson said. “The coaches have prepared me extremely well in practices — I go against double teams every day.”
Iowa freshman guard Alexis Sevillian made 5 of 8 3-point field goals and finished with 21 points; sophomore guard Kathleen Doyle scored 15 points with a 10 assists.
“Doyle continues to lead us so well,” Bluder said. “She had 10 assists and zero turnovers. I love that Lexi came back and had a great game after struggling at Maryland. She has a career-high with five 3s and 21 points.”
Illinois led 23-16 after the first quarter and owned a nine-point lead twice early in the second quarter. Iowa turned the tide over the final eight minutes of the first half by playing more player-to-player defense and focusing more on locating the Illini shooters. The Hawkeyes used a 22-10 run in the second quarter to lead, 38-33, at halftime.
For the game, Iowa shot 51 percent from the field (29 of 57), 50 percent from 3-point (6 of 12) and 91 percent from the free throw line (20 of 22). The Hawkeyes scored 40 points in the paint, including eight points from junior Hannah Stewart, who was 4 of 6 from the field.
Illinois (9-9, 0-4) received a double-double from Alex Wittinger with 20 points and 13 rebounds. She had six offensive rebounds.
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“I’m proud of our team. We are 3-1 in the Big Ten; three of the games have been on the road, two of them have been against top 20 teams. I don’t know if we could ask for much more out of our team with what we have been through and with how they have responded.”
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
In a very Iowa-like performance, the Hawkeyes converted 20 of 22 free throw attempts. Gustafson was 10 of 10, Doyle was 6 of 6, and Sevillian was 2 of 2. Iowa is shooting 84 percent from the line in four Big Ten games (62 of 74).
- Doyle recorded her second straight double-double. It is the second double-double of her career.
- Sevillian scored a career-best 21 points. Her five 3-pointers also marked a career-high.
- Iowa recorded a season-low seven turnovers.
Iowa returns to Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday against Purdue. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. (CT). The Boilermakers, who host Rutgers on Wednesday, are 10-7 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten.
“Our attendance at home is so great,” Bluder said. “The energy in Carver is amazing, so let’s do it again. It’s a Big Ten Network game; let’s show America how great our Hawkeye fans are. I know our young team appreciates the energy you bring to the court.”