March 25, 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.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Playing Iowa basketball.
What is playing Iowa basketball? For starters, Iowa basketball means winning. The Hawkeyes have done that 27 times this season with a chance for No. 28 tonight at 8:30 p.m. (CT) against No. 4 Louisville.
Iowa basketball is consistent production from its starting five. Junior center Bethany Doolittle enters the second round of the NCAA Tournament averaging 14.4 points a game. Junior guard Melissa Dixon averages 13.4 points per game. Junior guard Samantha Logic averages 13.3 points per game. Disterhoft, a freshman guard, averages 13.1 points per game. Taylor, a senior forward, averages 12.4 points per game.
Iowa basketball is also energy from the bench -- both in cheering teammates and performing when they get their opportunity on the court.
"I have heard the term before, the spark off the bench," said UI sophomore forward Claire Till. "That's cool to me, coming in and getting the team pumped up a little bit. We do it on the bench and our bench is great, but when you get the opportunity to go out on the floor and bring that spark with you too, it really helps the team."
"Our team cares about each other so much. They love it when they see someone being successful. They know how hard Kali and Claire work in practice. They know the situation that Kali has been pulled from the starting lineup; they want her to be successful. That shows you the chemistry of our team. When something good like that happens on the floor and you see our whole bench erupt, it's genuine because they want it so bad for their teammates."
UI basketball coach
"I have more confidence toward the end of the year," Till said. "Rebounding has always been something I pride myself on doing, that has been one of my biggest roles on this team."
Since postseason began March 6 in the Big Ten Tournament, Till has averaged 14.8 minutes, 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in five games.
Sophomore forward Kali Peschel has come off the bench in 16 games after starting the first 19. She scored eight points in 13 minutes against Marist -- her highest offensive production in 20 games.
"It's fun to be able to help contribute to a win," Peschel said. "We contribute in different ways, but being able to put points on the board is fun. All of us do that in some way and we're very unselfish."
Unselfishness leads to unity, two more attributes that identify Iowa basketball. The net result has been success. Iowa's 27 wins -- the second-highest total in school history -- are the most under head coach Lisa Bluder, and the highest since Iowa finished 27-4 in 1995-96.
"Our team cares about each other so much," Bluder said. "They love it when they see someone being successful. They know how hard Kali and Claire work in practice. They know the situation that Kali has been pulled from the starting lineup; they want her to be successful. That shows you the chemistry of our team. When something good like that happens on the floor and you see our whole bench erupt, it's genuine because they want it so bad for their teammates."
A third Hawkeye understudy, freshman guard Alexa Kastanek, is working her way back from an ankle injury sustained against Purdue in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on March 7. It came one day after she played 22 minutes against Illinois, one of her longest stints on the court all season. Kastanek saw nine minutes of action against Marist.
"It's nice at the end of the year that Claire, Kali, and Lex (Kastanek) are feeling so much more comfortable in their roles," Bluder said. "Not just going in to give one of our starters a rest or to relieve a starter that has fouls; they are going in to contribute."
To make an appearance in the Sweet 16, Iowa needs to get past Louisville (31-4), a team that played in the NCAA championship game last season. The Hawkeyes are 9-0 against nonconference opponents on Mediacom Court.
That success is the result of playing Iowa basketball.