Iowa tops American at home in NCAA Tournament opener
Ally Disterhoft is a firm believer in the "if it isn't broke don't fix it" theory.
Iowa hasn't had much in need of repair this season, so the Hawkeyes weren't about to start changing things for the NCAA Tournament.
The same formula that helped Iowa (25-7) earn its best tournament seed in 19 years lifted third-seeded Iowa into the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year on Friday.
Disterhoft led five players in double figures with 18 points as Iowa held off No. 14 seed American 75-67 in front of more than 4,400 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"We aren't ever going to change anything just because it's a bigger stage," Disterhoft said. "It doesn't matter if it's the Big Ten Tournament, it doesn't matter if it's the NCAAs and it doesn't matter if it's the first game of the year, we are going to try to have consistency in what we are doing."
Iowa was consistent enough to overcome some early hot shooting by American (24-9) to win its NCAA opener.
The Hawkeyes shot 54 percent in the second half to break a 36-36 halftime tie and held off a late American rally to advance to Sunday's second round.
Iowa will face No. 11 seed Miami (20-12) at 11 a.m. on Sunday after the Hurricanes upset sixth-seeded Washington 86-80.
"(American) made some shots early and we stuck together," Iowa senior Samantha Logic said. "At times it is hard to do that but I think we did a really good job of that, especially the second half."
Just as it has all season, Iowa got an all-around effort from Logic and some timely 3-point shooting from senior Melissa Dixon to hold off a game American squad making its NCAA Tournament debut.
Logic finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists while Dixon was 4-of-5 from 3-point range on her way to 15 points.
Iowa shot 56.3 percent from 3-point range and committed just nine turnovers against an American team that entered holding opponents to 57.2 points per game.
Freshman Whitney Jennings added 15 points and Bethany Doolittle added 10 as all five Hawkeye starters finished with double figures.
"We feel like that is our identity and we aren't going to make wholesale changes," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of the balance. "That's what we are. Assists, pass, take care of the ball, double-figure scorers and the 3-point ball, that's what we are."
American led by as many as five points in the first half behind the play of Patriot League player of the year Jen Dumiak.
Dumiak had 12 of her game-high 23 points in a first half that saw American lead for more than 11 minutes.
The Eagles hit 6-of-11 3-pointers in the opening half, but Iowa closed the frame on a 6-2 run.
"Iowa is a terrific team," American coach Megan Gebbia said. "They just shot better than we did, which, credit to them. They were playing on their home court with home crowd, but you have to give them credit."
Iowa scored the first five points of the second half on a Dixon 3-pointer and a pair of Doolittle free throws and never trailed again.
Iowa held American scoreless for more than two minutes to open the second half.
The Hawkeyes limited the Eagles to six points in the opening five minutes and took a 51-42 lead on a Disterhoft 3-pointer.
Disterhoft finished 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Iowa made 5-of-7 second-half 3-pointers.
"We got a couple more defensive stops," Logic said. "We want to push out in transition, and really attack the paint so we can get some threes, and I think Al (Disterhoft) shot the ball really well today for us, which really spreads the floor."
American got as close as 69-64 on an Arron Zimmerman 3-pointer with 2:47 left, but Iowa held the Eagles without a point for the next 2:40 while putting the game away.
Logic and Jennings combined to hit six straight free throws in the final 39 seconds to secure the win.
Iowa was 16-of-18 from the free-throw line, led by Jennings' 6-for-6 performance.
"That is a characteristic of our team is having five girls in double figures every night and we love that," Disterhoft said. "We love to play unselfishly, we love to move the ball and we strive to do that every game and today we did that."
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.