Iowa women thump Miami, advance to first NCAA Sweet 16 since 1996

Ryan Murken
The Iowa Hawkeyes convene at center court to celebrate after the second half of play during the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, March 22, 2015. The Hawkeyes beat the Hurricanes 88-70 to advance to the Sweet 16.

IOWA CITY, Ia. Lisa Bluder has won a lot of games in her 15 seasons at Iowa.

None of those victories was sweeter than win No. 304.

Sweet, as in Sweet 16 sweet.

Bethany Doolittle had 22 points and 10 rebounds Sunday, one of five Hawkeye players in double figures, as third-seeded Iowa advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Bluder with an 88-70 win over No. 11 seed Miami at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

MURKEN: Perfect ending to Iowa's home slate

Ally Disterhoft added 15 points as Iowa (26-7) advanced past the second round for the first time in 12 tournament trips under Bluder and the first time as a program since 1996.

"We've been here a lot of times on the doorstep, and it feels good to finally kick it down and be able to get there," Bluder said. "What makes it more special is we did it at home, we did it with a great crowd and we did it with this group."

Iowa, which had lost in the second round each of the past two seasons, will face Baylor in an Oklahoma City Region semifinal on Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

Second-seeded Baylor (32-3) eliminated No. 10 seed Arkansas 73-44 on Sunday.

"It definitely makes it a little more sweet," Doolittle said of the win coming amid the drought. "We have been working so hard for four years, and to finally get the opportunity to go to the Sweet 16 — we are so happy and we want to keep it going."

Prior to Sunday, Iowa was 0-5 in second-round games under Bluder.

"Do I look a lot lighter? I think there's a monkey off my back," Bluder said. "I feel like I might look a little bit lighter right now. You know, we've been there so many times, and just not been able to finish it."

Iowa certainly finished on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes shot 75 percent from the field and scored 50 points in the second half while building on a seven-point halftime lead in front of more than 7,200 fans.

"That second half, their offensive performance was incredible," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "It was the team destined to go to the Sweet 16 the way they were playing."

Miami (20-13) took its biggest lead of the game at 27-23 on a Jessica Thomas 3-pointer with 4:44 left in the opening half.

Iowa immediately responded when Kali Peschel scored on a putback to ignite a 15-4 Hawkeye run to end the first half. Doolittle tied the score at 27-all with a basket in the paint, and following a Miami turnover, Disterhoft hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Iowa a 30-27 lead it would never relinquish.

"After playing so close for so long, it was big to get the lead," Logic said. "We knew they were going to battle. That's a good team, so building that cushion kind of helped us."

Iowa scored on seven of its final eight possession of the first half and gained a 38-31 edge when Logic and Whitney Jennings each converted driving layups.

"I thought we got some good momentum going into halftime," Bluder said. "It was kind of back-and-forth and back-and-forth, and we took that seven-point lead going into halftime and I thought that was good for us."

Adrienne Motley scored the Hurricanes' first 12 second-half points and cut the lead to 46-43 with a back door layup with 15:21 left. But Iowa had every answer.

Jennings scored on a layup seven seconds later, and Chase Coley scored off an out-of-bounds play following a Miami turnover to push the lead to 50-43.

The Hurricanes never got closer than six the rest of the game.

"They were just sharper than us in key moments, key plays," Meier said. "We did something that wasn't really smart, like get a rebound and throw it right to Iowa, and they never did something that wasn't really smart in the last 10 minutes of that basketball game."

Logic finished with 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds, and Melissa Dixon added 12 points and five rebounds. Iowa shot 53 percent for the game and was 18-for-24 in the second half.

Jennings finished with 11 points for Iowa, and Peschel added eight off the bench, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Thomas led Miami with 20 points, while Motley finished with 18 for the Hurricanes.