Christina Buttenham felt like she was close to breaking through.
The statistics for the Iowa sophomore were not glossy and her play on the court wasn’t flashy, but Buttenham knew she was making progress in her second collegiate season.
On Sunday Buttenham enjoyed the breakthrough performance she knew was coming.
Buttenham scored a career-high 14 points in a 90-73 loss to Purdue, matching her previous scoring output from the Hawkeyes' previous seven Big Ten games combined.
“I’ve noticed in practice that I have been slowly seeing the floor a little better than I had previously been and I felt like I was getting better,” Buttenham said. “I definitely think I’ve been building towards a game like this.”
With senior forward Kali Peschel serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules on Sunday, Buttenham made the most of her career-high 27 minutes.
The 6-foot forward was 5-of-6 from the field, making all three of her 3-point attempts on her way to her second double-digit scoring output this season, and third of her career.
Buttenham also grabbed three rebounds and had an assist while playing more than 20 minutes for the first time in Big Ten play.
“I think Christina played her best game as a Hawkeye,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “She shot the ball well, she defended well, she was confident, she had rebounds, she just played loose and she played like a fighter out there and I loved it.”
Buttenham played sparingly last season as a freshman, showing glimpses of being a versatile offensive weapon.
She appeared in 27 games, averaging 2.4 points in six minutes of action.
A foot injury sidelined Buttenham for much of the summer and kept her off the court during Iowa’s foreign trip to Italy.
That time away left Buttenham scrambling to get back up to speed this fall.
“That was just a lot of time off from basketball,” Buttenham said about her summer. “Coming back I didn’t forget how to play, but I maybe didn’t see the floor or see different things like I used to, but definitely through practice I feel like I have gotten a lot better.”
Buttenham scored 10 points in the season opener against North Dakota, but scored more than five points just twice in the next 18 games.
That didn’t stop Buttenham from being productive.
She matched her career high for rebounds twice in a span of three games, grabbing six boards against Wisconsin and Penn State.
“At the beginning of the season my offensive game hasn’t really been where I wanted it to be so I’ve focused more on the defensive side of things and rebounding,” Buttenham said. “I think from there my offense built out of it.”
Buttenham is averaging 3.5 points and 2.8 rebounds on the season, but has seen an uptick in some areas during Big Ten play.
She is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and averaging 4 rebounds per game in Big Ten games.
Bluder is hoping that the 14-point performance is just the beginning for the native of Ontario, Canada.
“It’s one game but I think Christina has been getting better and better as the year has gone on,” Bluder said. “That one was just a big, huge step forward and hopefully we can keep moving in that direction.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.