INDIANAPOLIS - Iowa junior Samantha Logic walked to the bench with three fouls late in the first half and Illinois took its first lead two possessions later.
No problem. The Hawkeyes responded with a game-changing run, even though its unanimous all-Big Ten selection was sitting on the bench, and pulled away for an 81-62 win over the Illini.
The win was Iowa’s third over Illinois in four weeks, this one coming on the opening day of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Iowa now gets the rematch they’ve been wanting: Purdue at 1:30 p.m. today in the quarterfinals. The Hawkeyes haven’t forgotten about blowing a 16-point halftime lead in a 74-73 loss at Purdue on Feb. 16.
“I think we just have to come out and execute,” said Iowa freshman Ally Disterhoft, who had a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds on Thursday. “Obviously that loss at Purdue was pretty disappointing because we felt like it was our game and we kind of gave it away. We just have to come out strong at the beginning and maintain that throughout the game.”
Iowa (24-7) started well against Illinois, building an early 11-2 lead. Illinois (9-21) stayed in the game largely due to senior Amber Moore, who scored 16 of her game-high 26 points in the first half.
While the Illini took a 27-26 lead with 4:22 remaining in the first half, it was short-lived and their only one of the game. Iowa finished the half on a 15-2 run, scoring the final 11 points.
“We built a big lead when she was out and that hasn’t happened for us,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “That’s a great experience that we will be able to draw upon later.”
Iowa junior Bethany Doolittle shared game-high scoring honors with 26 points, making 10 of 14 field goals. She consistently slashed into the paint and teammates found her for easy baskets.
“I think their zone just got really spread out and we did a good job of identifying that and then making the reads,” Disterhoft said. “She’s a pretty long target in there.”
Iowa built a lead as large as 22 points in the second half and never led by less than eight points.
Logic played all but one minute of the second half, finishing with five points, 11 rebounds. She had six assists and seven turnovers, marking just the second time this season she finished with more turnovers than assists.
“I think she is definitely a huge part of our game but everybody really stepped up to the plate tonight,” Doolittle said.
Melissa Dixon finished with 15 points, while Alexa Kastanek and Theairra Taylor each had five assists.
Iowa has less than 24 hours to prepare for a rematch with Purdue, not an easy task due to the offensive style of the Boilermakers, Bluder said.
“They run so many sets and there’s no way without a practice that we can prepare for all of those sets,” Bluder said. “We just have to rely more on your fundamentals. Hopefully since we’ve been practicing since June we’ll have some of that stuff down.”
After easily beating Illinois in the regular season finale, Iowa players and coaches spent the days prior to the Big Ten Tournament refusing to look ahead to a possible matchup with Purdue if they could again beat the Illini.“Now that this game is over (Purdue) is a huge focal point for us,” Doolittle said. “We’re kind of looking for that revenge.”