Hawks hold off upset-minded Panthers

CEDAR FALLS – Two sizable runs by the Iowa women’s basketball team ended up being just enough to collect a victory over an instate rival on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes began the first half with an 11-0 run and then started the second session with a 9-0 spurt but had to hold off late challenges in each half by Northern Iowa as Iowa improved to 5-1 on the year with a 67-60 win at the McLeod Center.

“I am glad we built those big leads in each half because we didn’t hold on to them very well, which wasn’t good,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I think we did a good job of re-focusing during timeouts, but we just didn’t hit enough shots. We are getting good looks. They just aren’t going down.”

Iowa’s first run came moments into the game as the Hawkeyes turned a 3-2 deficit into a 13-3 lead thanks to four points each from Samantha Logic and Theairra Taylor.

The Panthers chipped away at their deficit and eventually pulled within one after a Brittany Donaldson bucket to make it 30-29 late in the period, but Iowa scored the final three points on a 3-point play from Bethany Doolittle.

Doolittle finished with 11 point and eight rebounds as the Hawkeyes led by four at the break. Logic’s five points led a 9-0 run right out of the gates in the second half and that put the Hawkeyes back up by double figures at 42-29.

“There are a lot of emotions to instate rivalries,” Bluder said. “We are just really happy to get that first road win of the year. That feels good.”

Northern Iowa used a similar formula to get back into the game after that. The Hawkeyes maintained a healthy lead until Erin Dohnalek’s triple made things interesting at 64-60 with 1:03 to play.

Iowa missed 14 free throws (24-for-38) on the day but hit 3-of-4 in the final 26 seconds to seal the win. Kali Peschel nailed both of hers and finished with six points and six rebounds, while Ally Disterhoft hit 1-of-2 and collected 14 points and seven boards in the victory. Logic’s 17 points and 10 rebounds were both game-highs and Iowa won despite making just 3-of-18 from 3-point range.

“We have to do something about our free-throw shooting,” Bluder said. “We really could have given this not any drama at all if we just hit our free throws. I am not sure what is going on, but we need to get it fixed. We are a good free throw-shooting team but just aren’t showing it right now.”

The Hawkeyes also shot just 33 percent of their shots from the floor and had only 10 assists in the game. They did, however, convert 18 Panther turnovers into 20 points.

“I would be more concerned if we weren’t getting good looks,” Bluder said. “We are getting good looks though, and we’ll start knocking them down eventually.”

Northern Iowa was led by Amber Sorenson’s 15 points, while Stephanie Davison added 12 points and Hannah Schonhardt pulled down 10 rebounds. Madison Weekly hit 3-of-10 from the floor and finished with nine points, five rebounds and three assists in the loss.

The Panthers made only 31 percent from the floor but stayed in the game with seven makes from distance. They also were 15-of-20 from the foul line.

The next time Iowa takes the court will be in Cancun, Mexico, as the Hawkeyes will take on USC, Boston College and UNC-Wilmington in the Cancun Challenge from Thursday to Saturday.

“It’s a busy week for us,” Bluder. “This will test with our legs and travel and games in a short matter of time.”

Northern Iowa will next play in the UT-San Antonio Tournament. The Panthers will play UT-San Antonio at 8 p.m. Friday and then will challenge UT-Pan American at 10 p.m. Saturday.