Feb. 13, 2014
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- On Thursday evening, when Carver-Hawkeye Arena was splashed pink for cancer awareness, the University of Iowa women's basketball team took care of business with a 69-55 win over Illinois.
The victory makes three in a row and eight of 10 for the Hawkeyes, who improved to 20-6 overall, 8-4 in the Big Ten Conference. It is the eighth time a Lisa Bluder-coached Iowa team has won at least 20 games in a season; dating back to 1984-85, the Hawkeyes have reached the 20-win mark 19 times.
"We want to be that 20-win program every year," Bluder said. "We're trying our hardest to get to that 20-win plateau. I know it doesn't mean as much to the (NCAA Tournament) search committee as it used to, but it's definitely a positive mark."
The Illini (9-16, 2-10) lost their sixth straight game. Freshman forward Jacqui Grant (13.4 points, 6 rebounds) missed her third game in a row because of illness.
Four Hawkeyes scored in double figures with Samantha Logic finishing with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Junior center Bethany Doolittle made 6-of-7 field goals and finished with a game-high 16 points. She added seven rebounds. Disterhoft scored 13 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. Taylor and Dixon added 11 points apiece.
They also turned in an impressive effort on the glass, out-rebounding the Illini, 40-23. Iowa pulled down 41 boards Monday during a 90-84 win against Northwestern.
"I thought it was our best rebounding performance of the year," Bluder said.
Contributing to the rebound total was UI sophomore center Nicole Smith, who made her regular season debut and played nearly two minutes after missing 25 games with an injury in her right knee.
"Her health is good. The knee is recuperated, she's ready to go," Bluder said. "Right now it's getting her chemistry with the team as far as timing on plays and remembering all the plays."
Two keys jump off the final stat sheet: the Hawkeyes won the battle in the paint, 36-10, and held a 22-7 edge in points off turnovers. Adding to the UI production in the paint was sophomore Claire Till, who scored four points and grabbed six rebounds.
"It was nice to see Claire get in on that as well," Bluder said. "She had to play significant minutes (16) and that's actually good for the Purdue game (Feb. 16)."
Although it wasn't one of the better shooting nights for Iowa (44.4 percent from the field, 22.2 percent from 3-point), the Hawkeyes flashed their trademark of sharing the ball with 19 assists on 24 field goals.
"That is our style," Bluder said. "We're going to give up shots to get better shots. That's Iowa basketball. That's what we do."
Iowa led by as many as 11 points (25-14) in a first half that saw the teams combine for 20 turnovers. The Hawkeyes made Illinois pay for its mistakes, scoring nine points off nine turnovers. Iowa had 11 miscues in the first 20 minutes, but they didn't lead to any points.
The Hawkeyes did a number on the boards, holding a 25-13 advantage (with nine offensive rebounds) in the first half.
Iowa has four regular season games remaining, three on the road. The Hawkeyes play their third game this week Sunday at Purdue (17-7, 7-5). Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. (CT) from Mackey Arena. Being away from home hasn't been a detriment for Iowa this season. The Hawkeyes have won four in a row on the road: Jan. 12 at Wisconsin, Jan. 19 at Ohio State, Jan. 29 at Minnesota, and Feb. 6 at Penn State.
"We won at (Purdue) last year," Bluder said. "I know they're in the top 25, but I think we play best against those types of teams."