As you probably already know (unless you were living in a cave or 100% focused on the Rose Bowl), last week was a heck of a week for the Iowa men's basketball team -- they smashed #1 Michigan State on Tuesday, then engineered one of the greatest comebacks in program history in beating #14 Purdue in West Lafayette on Saturday. But they weren't the only Iowa basketball team to get the season started on the right now -- the Iowa women rang out 2015 with one final win and began the 2015-16 Big Ten campaign with a victory over Nebraska, 74-68, on Friday.
Iowa used a dominant second quarter (24-11) to take control of the game and led 42-28 at halftime against the Huskers. Nebraska outscored Iowa in the third (19-15) and fourth (21-17) quarters, but couldn't get over the hump against the Hawkeyes in the second half. The win was Iowa's fourth straight over Nebraska -- quite a reversal in the series fortunes after Nebraska had won eight in a row over Iowa (including all of the games since Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
Iowa outshot Nebraska (45.6% to 36.6%) and was particularly potent on shots inside the 3-point arc -- they made 19/37 2-point shots (51%) on the day, compared to just 22/59 (37.2%) for Nebraska. Iowa also dominated the glass -- 51 to 29 (with a 14-10 edge in offensive rebounds). So why was the game at all close? Well, turnovers -- Iowa turned the ball over a whopping 24 (!) times, versus just 9 giveaways by the Huskers. Nebraska turned all those takeaways into added shot attempts and a 21-11 edge in points off turnovers.
Ally Disterhoft led the way for Iowa with a double-double -- 17 points (7/14 shooting) and 11 rebounds -- although sophomore post player Chase Coley had a breakout performance, too, posting 16 points (on 6/9 shooting) and 5 rebounds in the game. Alexa Kastanek was the only other Hawkeye in double figures (13 points). Whitney Jennings had a rough day shooting (6 points on 1/8 shooting), but did have 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Iowa's bench provided a key spark -- they outscored the Husker reserves 18-2, led by Tania Davis' 7 points and 4 assists. Megan Gustafson had 6 points, 3 rebounds, and a team-high 3 blocks off the bench as well. Nebraska was essentially a three-woman show: forward Jessica Shepard had a game-high 28 points (on 10/20 shooting) and 8 rebounds and guards Natalie Romeo and Rachel Theriot each had 15 points, but that trio accounted for 58 of Nebraska's 68 points. The Huskers will probably need a bit more help than that to get wins in the Big Ten.
Next up for Iowa? The Big Ten home opener tonight against Rutgers -- a game that also features C. Vivian Stringer's return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time since 2005. Stringer left an indelible mark on Iowa women's basketball (269 wins, six Big Ten championships, nine NCAA Tournament berths) and is sure to get a warm welcome from the Iowa crowd. Rutgers is 10-3 overall, 1-0 in the Big Ten and should present a good challenge for the #25 Hawkeyes, especially on the defensive end -- Rutgers opponents are scoring just 52.3 ppg (on 34% shooting), the lowest figure in the Big Ten. If you're in the Iowa City area, you should consider grabbing a ticket and going -- especially since tickets will be just $1.
Iowa Hawkeyes (@TheIowaHawkeyes) January 3, 2016
The game tips off at 7 PM CT, with TV coverage from BTN.