Doolittle’s career day pushes Iowa past Illini

INDIANAPOLIS – Junior Bethany Doolittle scored a career-high 26 points and freshman Ally Disterhoft recorded her third career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds to help the No. 23 Iowa women’s basketball team eliminate pesky Illinois from the Big Ten Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament 81-62 on Thursday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Iowa used an 11-0 run at the end of the first half to gain momentum and then put the Fighting Illini away for good with a 12-2 run to end the game.

Illinois cut its deficit to single digits on two separate occasions in the second half but the fifth-seeded Hawkeyes used the late jolt to finish off the 12th-seeded Fighting Illini to complete the three-game sweep this season.

The two teams played just four days prior and Iowa won that game going away by 31 points.

“We knew this would be a hard-fought game,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. “It didn’t matter what happened on Sunday. It was a new game, a new season and everyone is 0-0.”

The Hawkeyes (24-7) got who they wanted in the quarterfinals as Iowa will face fourth-seeded and 16th-ranked Purdue today at 1:30 p.m. In the only meeting this year, the Boilermakers took down Iowa 74-73 in West Lafayette after Courtney Moses buried two free throws with 7 seconds to play.

“We just can’t let Courtney Moses have an incredible night,” said Bluder. “We let up too many easy ones in the second half of that game. The first half was great, but we let up in the second half.”

The 24 wins for Iowa are the most under Bluder and the highest since the Hawkeyes finished 27-4 in 1995-96. The Hawkeyes also have won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons.

Doolittle’s 26 points came on 10-of-14 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the foul line. Melissa Dixon hit her first two 3-pointers and finished with 15 to help Iowa win despite committing 24 turnovers.

“We definitely tried to look inside today,” said Doolittle. “I think that was a good advantage for us. The guards do a great job of finding us inside when we are open and when they find us we can make the baskets.”

Samantha Logic missed half of the first half with foul trouble and scored just five points in the win. She did dish out seven assists and grab 11 rebounds though. Logic surpassed Purdue’s Stephanie White and Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen – 578 career assists – for the ninth-most assists in league history.

The Hawkeyes had trouble putting Illinois (9-21) away. Fighting Illini’s Amber Moore, the team’s lone senior, scored 26 points in her final collegiate game and helped keep her team in the game.

Before Iowa’s late run in the first half, the game was tied at 27-all with 3:35 on the clock. And the main catalyst for Illinois was a full-court pressure defense that forced the Hawkeyes into 13 first-half turnovers.

“We didn’t take care of the ball as well as we did last Sunday, but we got high-percentage shots,” said Bluder. “We got great paint points and had great assists in order to get those shots.”

Disterhoft ignited the first-half run with a three-point play and then got a block at the other end of the floor. Iowa then got a three-point play from Doolittle and freshman Alexa Kastanek buried a trey with 10 seconds on the clock to give Iowa a 12-point advantage at the break.

“Those and-ones get us pretty pumped up so it was nice to ride that momentum into halftime,” said Disterhoft.

Ivory Crawford had 15 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists for Illinois. But the Fighting Illini shot just 32 percent from the floor and got outrebounded 45-31.

The Hawkeyes led by as many as 22 in the second half and the 12-2 run to end the game came after Illinois cut its deficit to nine. Dixon scored six points during that jolt as Iowa won its fourth straight game and its 10th in the last 12 games. The Hawkeyes also are 17-2 in their last 19 games against Illinois and lead the all-time series 52-17.