By Darren Miller
IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s been nearly three weeks since the University of Iowa women’s basketball team has heard the pep band play the Hawkeye Victory Polka, In Heaven There is No Beer, after a win on Mediacom Court.
"We love that song," UI head coach Lisa Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes heard it loud and clear Thursday after knocking off Purdue, 63-55, in front of 3,659 to end a four-game losing skid and improve to 16-11 on the season, 6-9 in the Big Ten Conference.
Iowa held the Boilermakers (16-10, 7-8) scoreless for the final 4:33 to earn its first win inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena since defeating Michigan, 85-69, on Jan. 28.
"That was a pretty happy locker room and we let them enjoy it, because we needed that (win)," Bluder said. "We just needed that breath of fresh air and now get on a little bit of a roll at the end of the year."
The Hawkeyes entered the final 10 minutes trailing, 49-47. Two UI newcomers – freshmen Megan Gustafson and birthday girl Tania Davis – stood out in the fourth quarter, combining to shoot 3-for-3 from the field and 6-of-8 from the line with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Iowa outscored the Boilermakers, 16-6, in the final quarter and held Purdue to 2-of-12 from the field.
"They have played so much now, they are no longer freshmen, they are sophomores," Bluder said of Davis and Gustafson. "They have to be. They have been counted on so many times for us all year and they are responding and doing exactly what you want them to do."
Gustafson led four Hawkeyes in double figures with a game-high 18 points. She was 7-of-9 from the field with seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Sophomore Chase Coley scored 14 points with seven rebounds and Davis and junior Ally Disterhoft with 12 points. Davis, who turned 19-years-old Thursday, was 6-of-6 from the line with six rebounds, six assists, and four steals.
And she orchestrated the play of the game.
Davis played a key role in ending a 6:48 stretch for the Hawkeyes without a field goal when she picked Boilermaker guard Hayden Hamby at midcourt, drove to the hoop, bounced a pass behind her back (and behind Purdue’s April Wilson) to Whitney Jennings, who made a layup to put the Hawkeyes ahead, 60-55, with 1:12 to play.
"As long as it gets there," Bluder said of the behind-the-back pass. "I’m kind of an old-fashioned, fundamental, jump-stop kind of girl. But you know something, they also have to have fun and that’s important."
Purdue scored 90 points and shot 59 percent from the field the first time these teams met Jan. 24 in West Lafayette, Indiana (a 17-point Boilermaker win). On Thursday, the Hawkeyes held them to 36 percent shooting and just 4-of-20 for 3-point range. Ironically, Iowa was 0-for-5 from 3-point, the first time the Hawkeyes did not make a shot from distance since the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament against Notre Dame (0-for-11).
Iowa made 49 percent from the field against Purdue and sank 11-of-21 in the second half (52.3 percent). The Hawkeyes finished with 36 paint points.
After being out-rebounded by seven in the first half, Iowa dominated the glass over the final two quarters (20-12) and finished with a 35-34 advantage.
The Hawkeyes led by five at halftime, 32-27, with 20 of their points coming in the paint. Iowa shot 46 percent from the field (12-of-26).
Coley and Disterhoft had eight points at the break, Davis scored six points with three assists and three steals.
The Hawkeyes enjoyed their largest lead at 28-18 with 3:02 left in the first half. Iowa reached a 10-point advantage in the third quarter as well (45-35), but Purdue went on a 14-2 run over the final 3:20 of the quarter and the Boilermakers inched ahead 49-47 with 10 minutes remaining.
Davis snapped a scoring drought of 4:24 by making two free throws with 3:36 left to put Iowa ahead for good, 57-55.
Iowa returns to action Sunday against Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tip is set for 2 p.m. (CT). The Hoosiers (18-9, 10-5) won the first meeting, 79-74, in Bloomington, Indiana. The Hoosiers extended their winning streak to five games Thursday with a 93-79 win over Minnesota.
"We’re excited to get these second opportunities," Disterhoft said. "We feel we’re playing some of our best basketball and starting to put it together. We’re excited to have Indiana on our home court."