IOWA CITY, Ia. — It’s a fairly safe assumption that Iowa will need a big season from senior Kali Peschel to attain its goal this season.
It is safe to say what Peschel did in Iowa’s season opener on Friday night falls into the "big" category.
Peschel posted her first career double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds as Iowa pulled away for 83-61 win over North Dakota on the opening night of the Hawkeye Challenge at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It’s pretty important and we’ve told her that,” Lisa Bluder said of Peschel’s production. “We need her to step up and be more of a leader for our basketball team.”
Peschel was one of five Iowa players in double figures on Friday as the Hawkeyes won their 19th consecutive home game.
Ally Disterhoft had a game-high 20 points and freshman center Megan Gustafson added 12 points and seven rebounds, but Friday was all about Peschel.
The 6-foot-1 senior had a double-double before halftime, with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the first two quarters.
Peschel’s early production was critical for an Iowa team that shot 34 percent in the first half.
“The first half, it was a little rough on the offensive, but I found a way to score getting offensive boards,” Peschel said. “My teammates did a great job of setting me up for my shot.”
Peschel was 5-of-8 from the floor in the first 20 minutes while the rest of the Hawkeyes combined to make 8 of 30 field-goal attempts.
Sophomore Whitney Jennings and Peschel combined for 24 of Iowa’s 33 first-half points. The Hawkeyes led by just two at intermission.
The Hawkeyes grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in the first two quarters and finished with a 45-31 rebounding edge.
“I think both Kali and Whitney were key, and Kali especially on the boards,” Disterhoft said. “Bringing that aggression on offense and defense really helped us.”
Peschel got plenty of help in the second half as Iowa pulled away.
The Hawkeyes shot 55 percent from the field in the second half, outscoring North Dakota 50-30 in the final two quarters.
Christina Buttenham capped a 10-2 Hawkeye run with a 3-point basket with 3:48 left in the third quarter, and North Dakota never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
“It was a just a night and day difference between the first half and the second half,” Bluder said. “That’s why we shot the ball a lot better the second half is because we had better looks.”
Jennings had 14 points for Iowa, while Buttenham scored all 10 of her points in the second half.
Iowa will face Tennessee-Martin in the final day of the Hawkeye challenge at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s not a lot of time to prepare, but it is good experience because when we are in Austin (late this month) we play three games in three days,” Bluder said. “This is great experience for us to have a turnaround like this.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.