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Disterhoft steps into starting role

BY JACOB SHEYKO | JANUARY 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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After the Iowa women’s basketball team’s 88-72 loss to Michigan State on Jan. 16, head coach Lisa Bluder knew a change was needed.

The Hawkeyes had yet again fallen behind early in the game and spent the rest of the contest playing without the lead. But this was nothing new. The one similarity in almost all of Iowa’s losses has been the Hawkeyes’ inability to come out of the gate strong.

This prompted Bluder to move freshman Ally Disterhoft into the starting lineup for the Sunday matchup against Ohio State. It is the only change to the starting five Bluder has made all season.

“[Coach Bluder] just said that it’s something that I had earned over the season and that we wanted to try something a little different — a little more offensive firepower is what she said,” Disterhoft said. “Coming into that game, I just tried to play like myself.”

In that game — an 81-74 win on Ohio State’s home floor, Disterhoft provided that firepower. The Iowa City native registered a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds. She was also key for the Hawkeyes late in the game, when she sank six free throws in the closing minutes and helped Iowa seal its first victory at Ohio State since 1998.

“[She] did a tremendous job,” Bluder said. “I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t Freshman of the Week in the Big Ten. I think that she put up numbers very capable of receiving that award.”

Those who have watched Disterhoft this season shouldn’t be surprised by Bluder’s decision. Twenty games into the season, she has established herself as not only one of the Hawkeyes’ best players but also one of the most talented freshmen in a conference that’s loaded with them.

With the ability to play a myriad positions for the Hawkeyes, Disterhoft has posted averages of 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. But perhaps most importantly, she’s shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the arc.

On numerous occasions, the Hawkeyes’ ability to shoot from deep has been the difference between winning and losing. When Iowa wins, it averages 8.3 3-point buckets per game; when the Hawkeyes lose, that number drops to just 4 from behind the arc.

“[Disterhoft is] quick and explosive,” junior Sam Logic said. “People worry about her getting to the basket, but when she’s knocking down 3s, too, it’s pretty hard to guard.”

But as with every promotion to the starting lineup, one starter must be asked to come off the bench. In this case, that player is sophomore Kali Peschel. Despite what some see as a demotion, Bluder made it clear that Peschel remains a crucial player for the Hawkeyes.

“I need Kali. And I don’t want to lose Kali,” Bluder said. “I want her to understand maybe she didn’t play that much at Ohio State, but she will be counted on throughout the year.”

Bluder also said that while the starting lineup for the remainder of the season is not set in stone, Disterhoft is slated to start in Iowa’s next contest, against Indiana in Carver-Hawkeye.

How much will change with Disterhoft in the starting lineup is yet to be seen. Even when she was starting the game on the bench, Disterhoft was an important player — she averaged the fifth-most minutes per game for the Hawkeyes with 26.1 per game.

Whether she’s asked to provide a spark from the bench or from the opening tip, don’t expect any changes in Disterhoft’s approach.

“Nothing has really changed,” she said. “I’ve always just gone in with the mindset of every game, I’m going to play aggressive, and every practice just attack it.”


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