Long wait doesn't stop Hawks

BY MATT CABEL | MARCH 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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There was energy in the stands of Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday night the likes of which the Iowa women’s basketball team hadn’t seen all season.

That energy increased as the team stretched and flexed its muscles as it played its first match in two weeks after being on the wrong end of celebratory confetti in the Big Ten Tournament championship game against Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes don’t want to let the 2013-14 season end, and they played like it in their 87-65 defeat of Marist in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“Anytime you have two weeks off, you’re antsy to get back on the floor,” guard Sam Logic said.

“After a loss like that [to Nebraska], we were pretty focused … we had great focus and energy for two weeks without having a game, which is kind of tough to sustain. We were definitely ready for tonight.”

It was another special night for lone senior Theairra Taylor, who notched another strong performance with a 22-point, 7-rebound night that included a career-high five 3-pointers.

With 5:11 left in the first half, Logic drove into the lane for a lay-up that gave her team a 28-23 lead, its biggest of the half. The crowd of nearly 6,000 rose to its feet. Seconds later, Taylor deflected a pass from Casey Dulin and took the ball to the rim to give her team a 30-23 lead.

The fans — already on their feet — went wild.

“They were just relentless,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said. “It’s the nightmare that you are afraid of, when they have all five people that can score, and four of them shoot the 3, and one of them is a stud inside.  What do you take away?”

But Marist never went away.

With 8:59 remaining in the game, Logic took an elbow to the face and fell to the floor. While play was stopped for the referees to review the play, Bluder gathered Disterhoft, Dixon, Taylor, Kastanek, and Doolittle to the court to talk, reminding them to keep the offensive firepower going.

“We talked about ‘We’ve had a little break here, let’s not let the momentum shift,’ ” Bluder said. “Let’s have fun and stay focused.”

Despite playing a majority of the season with a small rotation, the Hawkeyes played like an offensive juggernaut. Logic finished a rebound shy of a triple double with 11 points, 10 assist, and 9 rebounds. Guard Melissa Dixon didn’t score any of her 12 points until the second half.

“They shot the hell out of the ball,” Giorgis said.

And 6-4 Iowa center Bethany Doolittle took advantage of the 6-1 height of Marist center Emma O’Connor on her way to 21 points and 8 rebounds, which opened up the floor for the Hawkeyes’ barrage of 3-pointers.

For the second year in a row, Iowa will play in a second-round matchup on its home floor, this time against the No. 3 seed Louisville, who made an appearance in last year’s championship game. But before the preparation begins, the Hawkeyes will celebrate keeping the season alive for two more days.

At least.

“Just a great feeling out on the floor tonight,” Bluder said. “… I thought the crowd was really great. I thought the crowd was loud. I think that was the most excited I heard a gym for a jump-ball victory in a long time. It was fun.”

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