Disterhoft quietly enjoying stellar sophomore season
Is it possible for a team's leading scorer to be overshadowed?
Can a second-team all-conference player get lost in the shuffle and still be praised by teammates for their attitude.
If you are Ally Disterhoft, playing in a balanced Iowa attack in Lisa Bluder's team-centric program the answers are 'Yes, yes and not surprisingly, yes.'
A sophomore in a lineup that features one of the best senior trios in the country, Disterhoft has consistently and sometimes even quietly put together a season worthy of notice.
The Iowa City native has followed up an impressive freshman season with a breakthrough sophomore campaign. She subtle leads Iowa (24-7) in scoring at 15.1 points per game entering Friday's NCAA Tournament opener with American (24-8).
"I think she has been overshadowed a little bit," Iowa senior All-American Samantha Logic said of Disterhoft. "I think maybe sometimes in the media or things like that she might be a little overshadowed but I think the coaches and everyone here understands what she does."
With 1,000 point scorers in seniors Logic, Bethany Doolittle and Melissa Dixon all turning in career-best seasons, Disterhoft has rarely been the focus of fans, media or opposing defenses this season.
Disterhoft has turned in an impressive season of her own.
She has boosted both her 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage this season while raising her scoring average from 13.2 to 15.1 points per game.
"Here it is never about any individual accomplishment, it's always about the team," Disterhoft explained. "I think that's why we earned this three seed is that we each worked on our individual games but we have been able to come together and put it together as a team."
After averaging 6.4 rebounds last season, she's grabbing 6.1 boards a game this season.
The stats don't show staggering growth, but Iowa coach Lisa Bluder sees it.
"I see tremendous growth," Bluder said. "Maybe there hasn't been great stat growth but I see her as a more complete basketball player."
Disterhoft said she feels more confident this season, and that confidence has shown on the court.
The sophomore has already attempted 35 more shots than last season and has 29 more assists than she did all of last year.
Her turnovers have also decreased this season while playing a career-high 32.5 minutes per game.
"I think she is more confident," Bluder said. "I think she knows what she is capable of doing and I think she feels well-rounded offensively."
The progress has been steady for Disterhoft who went from an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection last year to a second-team pick this spring.
Then again, "steady" is one of the ways teammates chose to describe Disterhoft.
Disterhoft has scored in double figures in 43 of her 48 career starts and reached double digits in 27 of 31 games this season.
She hasn't scored less than seven points in a game this year.
"She is consistent, she's steady and we look to her for some big baskets sometimes," Logic said. "Obviously she is a great asset to have on our team that can do a little bit of everything."
Disterhoft will try to carry that steady success into the NCAA Tournament.
A West High graduate, Disterhoft grew up dreaming of playing in the national tournament.
She never imagined she would do that at Carver-Hawkeye Arena where she grew up watching the Hawkeyes.
Disterhoft will get the chance to do that for the second straight season as Iowa attempts to return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996.
"To be able to host the first round of the NCAA Tournament the first two years that I've been here is an incredible opportunity," Disterhoft said. "It is something that is incredibly special for me and something that we are excited about."
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at @rmmurken.