Red-hot Hawkeyes bury Marist with balance
IOWA CITY – It was the nightmare Marist coach Brian Giorgis was afraid of.
He knew it may be tough to slow down the offensive balance of the Iowa women’s basketball team, but when the 19th-ranked Hawkeyes are burying shots from all over the floor they are pretty tough to stop.
Giorgis was hoping to simply slow down the attack, but even that proved to be too much as Iowa shot 57 percent from the floor and knocked down 12 3-pointers in an 87-65 win during the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in front of 5,810 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday night.
All five starters for Iowa reached double-figures, led by senior Theairra Taylor’s 22 points and junior Bethany Doolittle’s 21. Junior point guard Samantha Logic nearly recorded a triple-double.
“The frustrating part is they’ve got three excellent 3-point shooters and a (second-team) all-Big Ten stud in the middle,” said Giorgis. “But hats off to Iowa because they shot the hell out of the ball, especially in the second half. You could tell our kids were frustrated. What do we do? You just have to tip your hat to them.”
Logic finished with 11 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for her 24th career double-double. One more rebound would have given her the 14th triple-double in NCAA tournament history.
Doolittle grabbed eight boards and Taylor pulled down seven more as the Hawkeyes (27-8) outrebounded the Red Foxes 41-23.
Melissa Dixon didn’t score in the first half but finished with 12 points, while freshman Ally Disterhoft added 10 points. Disterhoft, an Iowa City native, has now scored in double-figures in 15 of her 16 career starts and Iowa improved to 13-3 with her as a starter.
“It was one of those games where I just thought we had so many weapons clicking on all cylinders,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “Bethany had it going inside, Theairra hit a career-high in 3-pointers and then Melissa got it going late. There were a lot of good things for our team out there tonight.”
Iowa won a first-round NCAA tournament game for the second straight season and will face third-seeded Louisville (31-4) at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The defending national runner-up Cardinals ran away from Idaho, 88-42, in the earlier game Sunday.
“We want to keep winning and get to the Sweet 16,” said Taylor, the team’s lone senior. “That is my motivation. That is all of our motivation. We just went out and showed what we can do.”
Marist (27-7) was making its ninth straight NCAA tournament appearance and played point-for-point with Iowa most of the first half. The Hawkeyes led by eight at the break and pulled away in the second half behind eight 3-pointers and a solid inside presence from Doolittle.
Iowa missed its first five shots from long range but hit 12 of its next 20. Taylor hit a career-best five treys and Dixon buried three shots from deep late to put the finishing touches on the victory.
“That’s the one thing that stinks about playing on someone’s home court,” Giorgis said. “We still haven’t beaten anyone on their home court (in the NCAA tournament). It is something we are going to have to deal with, but I think if we played on Mars, Iowa still would have beaten us the way they shot the ball.”
Marist got 12 points from both Emma O’Connor and Sydney Coffey and Casey Dulin also scored 10. Leanna Ockenden added nine points and a team-high six boards in her final game at Marist.
Iowa shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half despite hitting just 4-of-13 from long range. The Hawkeyes also turned it over nine times in the first 20 minutes but held an eight-point halftime lead thanks to a 20-12 advantage on the glass.
The Hawkeyes were 8-of-12 from 3-point range and connected on 62 percent of their shots in the final half. Marist’s bench outscored Iowa’s reserves 18-11 but Iowa held a 32-24 advantage in the paint and had a 9-0 cushion in fastbreak points.
“I’d say as a team, it was one of our best games of the season,” said Doolittle. “Everyone did something to help us out, and I think that gives us a lot of confidence going into the next one.”
Marist won at least 25 games for the eighth straight season. Dulin, O’Connor and Ockenden – Marist’s trio of seniors – combined for 110 career victories and two NCAA tournament wins in their four-year careers. Iowa has now won seven of its last eight games. The 27 wins this year ties for the most under Bluder and the most since Iowa went 27-4 in 1995-96. The Hawkeyes also have won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons. The last time the Iowa women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 was 1996. The Hawkeyes also hosted the first two rounds of the tourney that year but lost to Vanderbilt 74-63 to end their season. “The players know it definitely,” said Bluder in reference to the program’s Sweet 16 drought. “It’s something that we would love to accomplish. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in the Sweet 16? It’s something we definitely would love to have the opportunity to do.”