Hawkeyes defeat Fighting Illini, 81-62

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MARCH 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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INDIANAPOLIS — In the grand scheme of things, it was just one block and a lay-up. But in the Hawkeyes’ 81-62 win over Illinois, the play seemed a lot more important than that.

When Sarah Livingston got a dump pass, the Illini freshman appeared to have a clear path to the hoop. That was until freshman Ally Disterhoft swooped across the lane and swatted the shot away.
It was her ninth block of the season.

On the other end of the floor, junior Bethany Doolittle received an Alexa Kastanek pass and finished on a lay-up through contact — then completed an old-school 3-point play.

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“I was just trying to be in good help-side position,” Disterhoft said about the block. “I saw her going up, I don’t really think she knew I was coming across, so I just went for the ball and got it.”

The most important part of the play was the timing.

With 1:29 remaining in the first half, the Hawkeyes led by only 4. Foul trouble and turnovers had plagued the Hawkeyes throughout the first half. Most importantly, junior Sam Logic sat on the bench with three fouls.

Struggling to fight the Fighting Illini off — they even led at one point — the Hawkeyes were in desperate need of a big play.

The combination of Disterhoft and Doolittle provided it.

“I thought that gave us great momentum,” Bluder said, noting the Hawkeyes’ 11-0 run to end the first half. “It also let us know that we can have another run like that again.”

But Disterhoft and Doolittle’s play wasn’t just limited to that sequence. Instead, the two players seemed to be the Hawkeyes’ best weapons on the floor.

Doolittle led all Hawkeyes with 26 points — a career high — on 10-of-14 shooting. 

“It was an advantage for us,” Doolittle said. “Our passers are really great on the outside at finding people when they’re open, and when people work hard and get position down low, they find us.”

Disterhoft nearly posted a double-double in the first half. She finished with one, having posted 14 points and 12 boards when the final buzzer sounded. All in all, it was an impressive performance from a freshman playing in her first postseason game.

As opposed to the relatively sloppy first half, the Hawkeyes cleaned up their act in the final 20 minutes. Iowa still turned it over 11 times in the second half, but the Hawks also looked a lot more concerned with their play rather than whether a official blew their whistle.

“I think it’s always easy for players to get caught up in officiating,” Bluder said. “I just tell them that it’s my job, not your job.”

Iowa will advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament to play fourth-seeded Purdue. Last time the two played, Iowa blew a 16-point halftime lead and lost, 74-73.

“Obviously, that loss at Purdue was really disappointing,” Disterhoft said. “We felt like it was our game and kind of just gave it away. We have to come out strong from the beginning and carry that throughout the game.

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