By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A bad dream.
That’s what it felt like to University of Iowa head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder on Sunday as her No. 25 Hawkeyes fell behind by as many as 36 points and lost to Nebraska, 92-74, in front of 8,823 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The stunning setback comes three days after Iowa looked like world-beaters when it hung 103 points on No. 12 Ohio State during a 14-point victory over the Buckeyes.
“Obviously we struggled on both ends of the court, offensively, defensively, where it felt like everything was going Nebraska’s way,” Bluder said. “It was one of those games. It was like a bad dream and you can’t get out of it.”
The Hawkeyes (16-6 overall, 4-5 Big Ten) took an 11-7 lead on a 3-point field goal by Kathleen Doyle with 5:43 left in the first quarter. Nebraska closed the quarter on a 15-1 run to lead 22-12 at the break; the Cornhuskers tacked on the first 10 points of the second quarter as well.
“It is the best our group has played since I have been head coach at Nebraska,” said Amy Williams. “We set the tone in the first half for ourselves. I am proud of our team, they were very focused over the last couple days preparing for this game and they carried out our game plan from top to bottom.”
Iowa center Megan Gustafson led all players with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocked shots. Doyle added 16 points, four assists, three steals, and three blocked shots.
“I thought Doyle left every ounce of energy out on the floor that she had,” Bluder said. “Megan continued to battle and battle in there. I thought Mak (Makenzie Meyer) worked hard in there.”
Meyer scored nine points with four assists and three steals.
Iowa scored 48 points in the second half with 31 coming in the final quarter.
“We did a nice job fighting in the second half, that was important,” Gustafson said. “We have to come out with that defensive intensity and intensity overall throughout the whole time.”
Nebraska (16-6, 7-2) was led by Maddie Simon with 19 points and eight rebounds. She made 9 of 10 free throws. The Cornhuskers out-scored Iowa 31-13 in bench points.
“We played a lot of players and sometimes it is easy to have a little drop off and we didn’t,” Williams said. “I want to credit our bench, who I thought came in and gave us a spark and was able to keep our defensive focus, no matter who was in the game.”
Gustafson registered her 20th double-double in points and rebounds (in 22 games) this season. It is the 47th double-double of her career.
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“I want to congratulate Nebraska, they came out on fire and played a great game. I want to thank the crowd, what an amazing crowd we had and I feel so bad for our performance today. I need to apologize to everybody who came out to support us, we appreciate them so much and then I can’t even explain the performance we gave in the first half.”
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
With 2:54 left in the first quarter, Gustafson made a free throw that gave Iowa a 12-11 lead. At the 8:33 mark of the third quarter, the Hawkeyes trailed 62-26 (outscored 51-14 over 14 minutes, 21 seconds).
The Hawkeyes head for East Lansing, Michigan, to play Michigan State on Feb. 1. The Spartans, who are on a three-game losing streak, are 14-8, 4-5. Michigan State is the only Big Ten team to defeat Maryland this season (82-68 on Jan. 11 in College Park, Maryland).