Iowa falls in championship to Nebraska, 72-65

BY MATT CABEL | MARCH 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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INDIANAPOLIS — As confetti and streamers fell from the ceiling of Bankers Life Field House and the guard rope surrounded the court, there was no celebration from the Iowa women’s basketball team.

Once again, the Hawkeyes fell victim to Nebraska, this time in a 72-65 loss in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.

“Proud of my kids, proud of our effort,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I thought we battled; we had to go through some tough situations with some foul trouble … unfortunate, but I’m proud that my team hung in there.”

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The Hawkeyes had three players earn all-tournament team honors: freshman Ally Disterhoft, junior Sam Logic, and junior Bethany Doolittle. Logic finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Disterhoft had with 20 points and 4 rebounds. Doolittle only scored 7 in the championship game, but she torched Illinois on the first day with a career-high 26 points.

The Huskers started off the game by jumping out to an 18-4 lead in the first nine minutes. Theairra Taylor, Melissa Dixon, and Doolittle rode the bench in foul trouble for most of the half, with Taylor finishing with only 18 minutes of playing time in the game.

“[Nebraska] got to the free-throw line 18 times,” Logic said. “Tough to be outscored by 11 at the free-throw line in the first half … to even be in a game where Theairra plays 18 minutes is huge.”

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But the Hawkeyes stormed back on numerous occasions. Despite having three of its starters on the bench, the team entered halftime only trailing by 8. The second half saw Iowa strike back, even drawing within 1 with 5:20 remaining, but a technical foul on Lisa Bluder for stomping her foot at a call gave Nebraska a 4-point possession and 5-point lead Iowa couldn’t surmount.

“We went into halftime and said, ‘Hey, we’re only down 8 with this many fouls, this disparity in the rebounds and at the free throw line,’ ” Bluder said. “We felt like that was good … We really did feel like we were going to win the second half.”

Iowa struggled with fouls all tournament long. Sunday’s trouble gave extended minutes to Claire Till, Kali Peschel, and even Kathryn Reynolds in the first half, with Till playing  large portions of the second half.

Iowa was able to draw within 1 with five minutes remaining, but the Huskers never went away. The most telling stat of the game came from the glass: Iowa’s lack of size on the court allowed Nebraska to grab 26 offensive rebounds of its 58 total. The Hawks totaled 27 boards.

“It’s extremely frustrating to get out-rebounded like that,” Disterhoft said. “That’s all on us. That’s all on our shoulders, something we’re definitely going to work on in the upcoming weeks to shore up.”

The Hawkeyes came into the tournament already a lock for the NCAA Tournament, and Bluder believes that her team’s performance in the conference tournament as well as a strong regular season cemented its spot as a 4 or 5 seed in the Big Dance. She believes that her squad could be poised to make a run.

“We’re planning to be around for a long time,” Bluder said. “We have home court; we’re going to use it. [Making a run] is the goal. That’s the goal.”

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