IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa said goodbye to three key contributors from last year’s team that reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Somebody would need to step up and help returning starters Ally Disterhoft and Whitney Jennings this winter.
If Friday’s 83-61 season-opening win against North Dakota was any indication, that someone was going to be Kali Peschel. The senior captain notched a double-double before halftime en route to a 17-point, 14-rebound (eight offensive) performance.
“We need her, and we’ve told her that we need her to step up and be more of a leader for our basketball team,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “She is voted captain by her peers, so we have that element. But then also the scoring element. We all know we lost a lot of points, and Kali was playing great basketball the end of last year. She knows that we need her, and I’m so happy with the way she hit the offensive glass tonight.”
Junior captain Ally Disterhoft paced the winners with 20 points to go with five assists and no turnovers. Sophomore Whitney Jennings added 14 points for the winners while are freshman Megan Gustafson added 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Hawkeyes clung to a 33-31 lead against the Big Sky Conference opponent. It could have been worse had Peschel not carried the load. She had 14 and 10 at the break.
“In the first half it was a little rough on the offensive end but I found a way to score getting offensive boards. My teammates did a great job setting me up for my shot. It was just a really fun game and we had a fun crowd out there, too,” Peschel said.
The Hawkeyes led by five points with 7:47 left in game before putting together the decisive run. Christina Buttenham (10 points) splashed in a three-pointer to spark a 19-2 surge. She and Disterhoft each scored five in the spurt and Gustafson added four.
“The coaches came in and helped us make those adjustments a halftime and collectively we knew we had to move the ball a little bit more, be more aggressive and get on he boards to help (Peschel). I think we came out like a different team in the second half,” Disterhoft said.
The Hawkeyes return to action on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Tennessee-Martin.