By RICK BROWN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — No one on the University of Iowa women’s basketball team takes assists for granted.
“We really celebrate assists,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We get excited about them.”
It was a 40-minute celebration for the 13th-ranked Hawkeyes in a 106-39 blitz of North Carolina Central on Saturday on Mediacom Court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa recorded a school-record 36 assists on 41 field goals while improving to 3-0. The previous mark of 34 — on 42 field goals — came in a 104-67 victory at Western Kentucky four days earlier.
Junior Makenzie Meyer matched her career-high with eight assists for the second straight game. Senior Hannah Stewart had a career-high six assists.
And the Hawkeyes’ fast break clicked all night.
Iowa scored a season-high 22 fast-break points, and is averaging better than 18 points in transition over three games. That fast-break was keyed by unselfish play and some sharp down-court-passes.
“That reinforces them to run the floor hard when they’re rewarded with that pass,” Bluder said.
Senior Megan Gustafson recorded her 58th double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Meyer added 16 points, and made 4-of-6 3-pointers.
Iowa came within a point of matching the program record for points in a game, against USC Upstate in 2014. The 67-point margin of victory is also a point off the school record.
The Hawkeyes took a 47-18 halftime lead after a closing 14-2 run, and the one-sided affair gave Bluder the luxury of getting her bench extended minutes.
Among those taking advantage were a pair of freshmen. Center Monika Czinano had 16 points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes. She had a total of four points and four rebounds and played 21 minutes the first two games.
Another rookie, forward Logan Cook, made the first three 3-pointers she attempted and played more than 17 minutes. She had not scored in 16 minutes of action the first two games.
“It’s important for us to get a lot of experience for those younger kids,” Bluder said. “Going on the road for back-to-back games, without Kathleen (Doyle) and Tania (Davis) not 100 percent, that’s tough. So we’re going to be counting on them (in the Bahamas).”
QUOTING HEAD COACH LISA BLUDER
“We brought a team in that we were better than. Sometimes you can let up. Sometimes you can start playing to your opponents’ level. What I’m happy about is we didn’t do that. We kept the intensity high. I’m unhappy with our turnovers (21). Free-throw shooting, I’m unhappy with (13-of-20), but when you have 36 assists on 41 baskets, that’s something special.”
STATISTICS OF THE GAME
Iowa had a 57-17 rebounding edge on North Carolina Central, and limited the Eagles to 14 points over the second and third quarters.
When Gustafson missed a fast-break shot attempt in the final second of the first quarter, it snapped an impressive streak. She had made 17 consecutive field-goal attempts over three games before that miss.
“I just missed it,” Gustafson said. “Got to move on.”
She made her last attempt in the season opener against Oral Roberts, was perfect in 13 attempts at Western Kentucky and then made her first three shots Saturday.
For the season, Gustafson has made 31 of 44 shots from the field.
The Hawkeyes face West Virginia (3-0) Friday at 4:15 p.m. (CT) in the first round of the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas. The Mountaineers have defeated Coppin State, NJIT, and Bryant at home. Iowa will face either Eastern Kentucky or Florida State on Saturday.