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Hawkeyes ready to face Syracuse in annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge

BY MATT CABEL | DECEMBER 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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Things aren’t getting any easier for the Iowa women’s basketball team.

Less than a week removed from playing three games in three nights in Cancún, the Hawkeyes now have the No. 22 ranked Syracuse Orange heading into Iowa City for the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

“We know a great opponent lies in front of us in Syracuse,” head coach Lisa Bluder said Tuesday. “They’re ranked No. 22 in the country, but they could be much higher. 

“This is a team that was in the NCAA Tournament last year, they were young, their sophomores were All-Americans coming out of high school, and they’re playing like it. They shoot the 3-ball, force a lot of turnovers, and press the entire game. It’s a different style than we’ve seen.”

While the game will be a challenge, the Hawkeyes know that they will benefit from the game being played on their home floor. Teams alternate between home and away games each year of the challenge.

We’ve been away from Carver for so long,” Bluder said. “We’re both coming off trips where we were traveling out of the country and having three games in three days. Having the game at Carver, especially if we have a great crowd, will help us.”

The team has received a big boost from Ally Disterhoft, who has been one of the first players off the bench in all nine of its games. Bluder praised Disterhoft for her consistency and said her contributions have had major impacts in numerous games in the young season.

“I just try to do whatever I can to help the team,” Disterhoft said. “Whether it’s shooting, rebounding, running in transition, I just try to help out.”

The freshman, who is averaging 12 points per game, has drawn praise from the media, her teammates, and coaches. Bluder said the Iowa City native has “amazed” her staff. Disterhoft has had success crashing the boards for the small Hawkeye squad and driving the ball into the lane for numerous and-1 opportunities.

“You bring in freshmen because you think they’re going to be good players, but they’re freshmen, so you never know,” Bluder said. “They’re up one game and down another game. Her level of consistency has been remarkable, and her ability to go in and take contact and get rebounds for us.”

It seems that the Cancún Challenge proved helpful for the Hawkeyes. The team learned more about its tendencies, gained chemistry, and saw the potential end of guard Melissa Dixon’s shooting slump. The Hawkeyes showed a balanced attack with numerous players, including point guard Sam Logic and Disterhoft, scoring in double digits over the course of many nights — something the team will continue to need because of its lack of depth.

“We can handle adversity,” Disterhoft said. “We just know each other’s tendencies a little more.”

The Hawkeyes will also need to be on the lookout for a difficult full-court press from Syracuse. Logic thinks that her team will see the press for the course of the entire game, calling it a unique challenge that the Hawkeyes will face. The Orange like to force turnovers from the press, and the Hawkeyes will need Logic to keep the ball in her hands, particularly now that the 10-second rule for crossing half-court is being enforced.

“We’re ready for it, we scout it, we know their tendencies,” Logic said. “You just have to execute. We’ve been doing really well, I think. Knowing it going in helps to be ready for it all the time, and I think our team’s ready.”


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