Balanced attack lifts Iowa to win

IOWA CITY – The Iowa women’s basketball team had an up-and-down performance against North Dakota?on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes got down 13-4 early and gave up a 14-0 run in the second half, but a 22-2 run in the final stages of the first 20 minutes gave No. 21 Iowa some breathing room and the Hawkeyes eventually cruised to an 88-62 win over North Dakota in the final non-conference game of the season in front of 4,205 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“We’re happy with the victory,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, who is now just seven wins shy of passing Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer as Iowa’s all-time winningest coach. “They came in winners of five of the last six; probably one of the bigger teams that we’ve faced inside in the post area.”

Six Hawkeyes (12-2) scored in double-figures and a seventh grabbed 10 rebounds in the win. The Hawkeyes were 17-of-20 from the line, buried nine 3-pointers and had a 20-0 advantage in fast-break points.

“I thought our fast break got us going,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “The first 24 minutes of this game were really good. I thought we were on our way to a great game. I told the team we played a good game, but we were on our way to having a great game and didn’t quite pull that off.”

Five Iowa players came into the game averaging in double-figures. Samantha Logic’s 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds led the way, while Theairra Taylor (14), Melissa Dixon (13), Bethany Doolittle (12), Ally Disterhoft (12) and Alexa Kastanek (11) also scored in double digits.

Disterhoft and Kastanek accounted for all 23 of Iowa’s bench points, while Kali Peschel pulled down 10 rebounds and added the only other points (5) not scored by the six in double figures. Doolittle blocked four shots in the win.

“I love the balance,” Bluder said. “I think it makes us really hard to guard. They can’t focus on one player on our team. I like it when we get out and push. I think we’re a very good offensive team.”

Iowa’s 12 victories prior to the start of conference play equal the most in a season under Bluder. Iowa finished 12-1 in its non-conference slate during the 2010-11 campaign.

North Dakota (6-4) led 13-4 after a little more than 4 minutes but an 11-0 run allowed Iowa to take its first lead at 25-24.

The Hawkeyes, who are now 8-0 at home, trailed 24-20 with 6:16 to play in the half but led 45-28 at halftime. Iowa ended the first half on a 25-4 run over the final 6:42, making five 3-point field goals.

Iowa’s lead was cut to as little as 12 in the second half thanks to a 14-0 spurt from UND, but an 8-0 run pushed the lead back to 20.

“We kind of had a lull in there for a while where we got kind of stagnant and thought the game was over at that point,” Bluder said. “Obviously, we can’t have those lulls against Big Ten competition.”

Madi Buck led UND with 19 points and seven boards, while Mia Loyd scored 13 and grabbed six rebounds. Emily Evers had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench, but UND turned it over 21 times and made just 12-of-22 from the foul line.

Three of North Dakota’s four losses have come to schools in Iowa. Northern Iowa and Iowa State beat UND in the opening week of the season. The fourth loss came by two points to Iowa’s Big Ten rival Minnesota earlier this month.

The Hawkeyes, who have won eight of their last nine, open Big Ten play at Indiana (12-0) on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.

“I feel good about our record going into Big Ten play,” Bluder said. “We know that we have a first pass against an unbeaten on the road and that’s a big challenge, and we’re going to start worrying about that in about 30 minutes.”

All but one of Indiana’s 12 wins have come against mid-major programs. The Hoosiers beat Virginia Tech by six and will play at Xavier on Sunday before hosting the Hawkeyes.