Nov. 10, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa head women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder felt something in preseason.
While pundits looked at the Hawkeyes as a team that lost its top two scorers to graduation, Bluder saw chemistry and work ethic. And while those two attributes don't always guarantee victory, they did Sunday against No. 14 Dayton.
Iowa led by double digits in both halves, then overcame a five-point deficit with 32 second to play, and won 97-93 in overtime -- the 12th time in her 14-year Iowa tenure that a Bluder-coached team has knocked off a nationally ranked opponent.
"I felt like we had something special with this group early on," Bluder said. "I think it's a special group and we're going to have a special year. They enjoy each other, they enjoy coming to practice, they enjoy working hard. We're going to keep riding it as long as we can."
It's one thing to score 97 points against the typical cream puff opponents that colleges feast on in the early part of their season. But doing it against Dayton is another thing. The Flyers return four starters and seven letterwinners from a team that went 28-3 last season, including an undefeated 14-game run through the Atlantic 10 Conference. They have qualified for the last four NCAA tournaments.
"We beat a very, very good basketball team," Bluder said. "This is a good win for our program."
Bluder said her team entered the Hawkeye Challenge with three goals and they accomplished them all.
"We wanted to win this tournament, we wanted to beat a top 25 team, and we wanted to have the home-court presence," she said. "This is our house and we want to establish that this is our house."
In other Hawkeye Challenge action, both the Hawkeyes and Dayton defeated UC-Riverside. Iowa won 70-56 on Friday and the Flyers won 89-54 on Saturday.
UI junior Samantha Logic was named tournament MVP. She scored 16 points with 14 assists and sank a game-tying 3-point field goal with nine seconds left in regulation Sunday. That completed a comeback from five down, which was made possible because of two made free throws from Ally Disterhoft with 23 seconds to play and a forced turnover by Bethany Doolittle with 17 seconds left.
Adding to Logic's memorable game is the fact she was hit in the mouth late in the game and lost half a tooth.
"I'll remember how our team bounced back," Logic said. "A lot of teams won't have that focus, intensity, or even the thought that they can win. The focus of this team was outstanding."
So was its balance. Six Iowa players scored in double figures, led by Doolittle with 22 (10-of-13 field goals). She added six blocked shots and five rebounds. Disterhoft scored 19, Logic had 16, Melissa Dixon scored 13, Kali Peschel added 12, and Theairra Taylor scored 10.
Doolittle and Peschel joined Logic on the all-tournament team. Peschel corralled a game-high 14 rebounds.
"She has found a role and it's a valuable role," Bluder said of Peschel.
The Hawkeyes played eight players, but still held a 24-11 edge over Dayton in bench points. That figure was titled heavily in Iowa's favor because of Disterhoft, who made 7-of-13 field goals, 2-of-3 3-pointers, all three free throw attempts, and pulled down six rebounds. Claire Till contributed five points off the bench.
"I felt comfortable out there and that's easy when you're playing with such a great group of girls who put so much trust in you," Disterhoft said. "When my name was called I tried to come out and help the team however I could."
The Hawkeyes enjoyed their biggest lead at 31-16 with 10:06 left in the first half; they led by 14 (77-63) with 9:42 left in regulation.
"Basketball is a game of momentum," Bluder said. "We're disappointed we let that lead get away from us. We have some things to work on defensively, but the composure our players played with down the stretch for this early in the year is pretty remarkable."
Iowa shot 47.2 percent from the field (34-of-72) and 44.4 percent from 3-point range (12-of-27). The Hawkeyes got to the line 21 times, making 17.
Iowa (2-0) returns to Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT).