Jan. 24, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There was a stretch during one of the lowest points of the University of Iowa women's basketball season when freshmen Ally Disterhoft and Alexa Kastanek provided the Hawkeyes with a much-needed spark.
During Iowa's 88-72 home loss to Michigan State on Jan. 16, the duo scored 16-straight points when the game was all but decided. In a postgame news conference, UI head coach Lisa Bluder said she was pleased with the fight, but wanted to see the same from the freshmen during crunch time.
If you ask, you shall receive.
In the Hawkeyes' 81-74 road triumph over Ohio State in Columbus -- a place where Iowa hadn't won in 16 years -- Disterhoft and Kastanek combined for 34 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals.
"Both of those freshmen responded extremely well," said Bluder. "I see both of those players getting better and better every game. We're about 20 games into the season and you're hoping that happens, when freshmen quit acting like freshmen because of all the experience they have had."
In an effort to get more "firepower" on the floor, Bluder elected to insert Disterhoft into the starting lineup at the forward position. The Iowa City product responded by scoring a career-high 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for her first career double-double. She made 5-of-9 field goals (2-of-3 from 3-point range) and went 12-of-12 from the charity stripe.
Disterhoft says her mindset hasn't altered and doesn't anticipate her role on the team changing either.
"I have gone in with the mindset that I am going to play aggressive and every practice just attack it," she said. "I need to continue to play my game... distribute, score and get rebounds. I want to continue to look at it in the same light."
Kastanek was steady and effective against the Buckeyes. In the first half, when Iowa jumped out to a 49-36 lead, she kept the team on track when fouls sidelined starting point guard Samantha Logic. She went on to score 10 points, making 4-of-7 shots in 18 minutes. It was her third game in double figures this season.
"She played five minutes at point guard and that hasn't been so great in some prior games," said Bluder. "She did a good job in that role and she scored in a variety of ways. She had a couple of 3s and took the ball hard to the hole... she understands the shot selection we like."
Bluder sees the evolution process taking place. The freshmen are becoming more comfortable, their confidence is increasing and that translates to game day.
"I feel like both of them are getting a better grasp of our offenses and what we're trying to accomplish and our defenses and what we're trying to accomplish," said Bluder. "They're gaining a better understanding of the system, so they're getting to be a lot more confident now."
The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday, hosting Indiana at 6 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network with Lisa Byington and Vera Jones on the call.