The Hawkeye women went to the NCAA basketball tournament for the sixth straight year, won 21 games and got a victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Iowa is the only Big Ten team to have appeared in the last six NCAA Tournaments.
I talked to assistant coach Jenni Fitzgerald last week about the season and the new recruits.
Coach Fitz has been on Lisa Bluder’s staff for 13 years and has helped the Hawkeyes to 12 postseason appearances, including 10 NCAA berths.
“Any time you get into an NCAA tournament and beat someone who had a better season than you, you have to be pleased with that,” said Jenni. “We struggled in the middle of the season, we kind of had our backs against the wall and came back and got into the tournament.”
The Hawkeyes started fast, going 11-3 in the non-conference schedule.
They knocked off West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas when all three teams were ranked in the top 25.
“We started out the preseason really strong, beat a lot of top-25 teams and then hit a tough stretch in the Big Ten,” said coach Fitzgerald.
The Hawks started out the Big Ten season 5-2 with big wins over Ohio State and Purdue.
Iowa then lost five straight, including a loss to Northwestern 67-65 on a last-second shot by the Wildcats.
The Hawkeyes also lost to Nebraska, 76-75, where they had three chances in the last minute to win the game.
“It’s not like we were playing poorly,” said the coach. “Actually we were getting better, but we were playing tougher competition during that stretch.”
Iowa was sitting at 16-10, 5-7 in the Big Ten and had to travel to West Lafayette to face the 18th-ranked Boilermakers.
Lisa Bluder, Iowa’s head coach, had never beaten Purdue in Indiana and went into the game with a 12-game losing streak at Mackey Arena.
The Hawkeyes had four players in double-figures, shot 50 percent from the field and rolled over the Boilermakers, 72-52.
“That was a huge win for us and it got the monkey off our back since our coaching staff had never won there,” said Jenni.
Iowa finished the season hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
They won the first game, knocking off Miami, 69-53, led by the one-two punch of Samantha Logic and Melissa Dixon.
Samantha hit 8-14 field goals, grabbed 11 rebounds and led the Hawks with 23 points.
Melissa came off the bench, had three 3-pointers and scored 13 points... all in the second half.
The Hawkeyes season ended with a 74-57 loss to Notre Dame, the second seed in the tournament.
“I thought the team fought hard,” said coach Fitz of the game. “If we could get one three to go down, it could have changed momentum, but we could not get over that hump but they did fight and you’re proud of them for that.”
Iowa has had some great seniors in the program and last season was no exception.
You start with Morgan Johnson, who broke Jennie Lillis’ record of 121 starts. Morgan had 129. She also played in 130 games, which broke Kamille Wahlin’s record of 127 games.
Morgan never missed a game in her four-year career.
The 6-5 center from Missouri also owns the Iowa record with 293 career blocked shots.
Jaime Printy finished her career as the best free throw shooter for a season as she shot 92.5 percent, which also tied the Big Ten single season record.
Jaime is the first player in Iowa history to earn All-Big Ten honors all four years she played.
Trisha Nesbitt, who didn’t put up the numbers Morgan and Jaime did, was hurt a lot in her four years, but Lisa Bluder said she has been a great leader on and off he court the last couple of years.
“They were an incredible group of seniors,” said Jenni. “In the record book what they accomplished was incredible, but people didn’t see what they did off the court. The leadership they provided, the things they did out in the community. They were just a really, really special group.”
Iowa returns three starters, including only one senior on the team, Theairra Taylor.
Theairra started every game last season, averaged 8.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and was second in steals with 41.
Bethany Doolittle and Samantha Logic, both juniors-to-be, also started every game.
Bethany averaged 7.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and was second in blocked shots with 59.
“With Bethany it’s a confidence issue,” said coach Fitz. “You see it all the time and it’s amazing what she can do at practice and just believing that she can do those things in a game.”
Samantha became Iowa’s single season assists leader with 217, breaking Cara Consuegra’s 191. She also led the team in steals with 62 and averaged the most minutes (34.2) per game.
Melissa Dixon was voted the Big Ten’s Sixth Player of the Year after averaging 10 points per game and leading the Hawkeyes with 78 3-pointers.
Kathy Thomas, who transferred from junior college, played in 31 games last year and had a season-high 15 points in a win over Missouri State.
Kathryn Reynolds, who sat out last year with a knee injury, should be ready for the season next fall. Coach Fitzgerald said Kathryn has “incredible leadership qualities.”
Kali Peschel, Kali Timmerman, Claire Till and Nicole Smith will all be sophomores next fall. All of them played last season, with Kali and Kayla playing in 28 and 26 games respectively.
The Hawkeyes are bringing in two new recruits, Ally Disterhoft (6-0) and Alexa Kastanek (5-10).
Ally was Miss Iowa Basketball 2013. She led the state in scoring (26.3) and helped the West High Trojans win the state championship in her junior season.
“She’s a great shooter,” said Jenni. “When you watch Ally play at the end of the game you ask ‘when did she get 28 points?’. She’s so smooth.”
Alexa is a shooting guard from Lincoln, Neb.
Both are top-100 recruits, good ball handlers, good shooters and can drive to the basket.
Coach Fitzgerald said both of them can play the two or three spot and could see playing time early.
All of them, except Kathryn Reynolds, will play in Game Time this summer.