Bethany Doolittle comes through in big way vs. Miami
Bethany Doolittle's final shot at a Sweet 16 berth didn't start the way she imagined.
Doolittle picked up a foul 95 seconds into Sunday's second-round matchup with Miami in the NCAA Tournament and headed to the bench.
"It's certainly not how I wanted to start," Doolittle said.
More important than the start was the way Doolittle and the Hawkeyes finished on Sunday, which was exactly the way the senior center had imagined for four years.
Doolittle turned in one of the best games of her career, finishing with game highs of 22 points and 11 rebounds as Iowa defeated Miami 88-70 to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996.
The 6-foot-4 senior also blocked three shots and had two steals while causing problems for an athletic, but undersized, Hurricane front line.
"We felt like she had the upper hand inside," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "I thought Bethany was a superior post out there today."
Doolittle's double-double Sunday was her ninth, and easily biggest, of the season.
Against a Miami team without a player over 6-foot-2, Doolittle made 8-of-16 field goals and was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
Doolittle accounted for a quarter of Iowa's 44 rebounds as the Hawkeyes held a 44-35 rebounding edge over the Hurricanes.
Of her 11 rebounds, six came on the offensive end, accounting for half of Iowa's offensive boards.
"She just played one of her best games I've seen in a really long time, if ever," Iowa senior Samantha Logic said. "We just wanted to keep feeding her and keep going to her and if she didn't do it, she got the O‑board and she got it herself."
Doolittle was at her best as Iowa put the game away.
The senior had six points during a 15-3 Iowa run in the final seven minutes that turned a six-point Hawkeye lead into an 18-point advantage.
Doolittle continually hit mid-range jump shots in front of, or drove past, Miami defenders.
"I just tried to square up to the basket and take advantage of what they were giving me," Doolittle said. "If I gave them a little shot fake and they went for it I could drive around them, but a lot of those face-up jump shots were open so I took them."
The player of the game on Sunday, Doolittle also had the play of the game according to Miami coach Katie Meier.
An 8-0 Miami run had whittled the Iowa lead to 69-63 with under eight minutes to play and Logic went to the free-throw line for a one-and-one.
Logic missed the front end, but Doolittle grabbed the offensive rebound and eventually hit a jump shot on the same possession to start Iowa's 15-3 run that secured the win.
"I think the key to the game, we cut it to six there and had Samantha Logic miss a free throw and Doolittle came and got the free throw and then hit a jumper in our face," Meier said. "That's a huge, basically four‑point swing there in a six‑point game and from that point on I think we just kind of broke."
Doolittle hesitated to call her performance on Sunday the best of her career.
She didn't hesitate to define it as her biggest.
"Considering what was at stake today I thought it was a good game for me," Doolittle said. "We don't want this season to end so I was going to do whatever I could to keep it going."
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.