Hawkeyes hoping to put 2nd-half struggles behind them

Ryan Murken
Ally Disterhoft drives around North Dakota's Stephanie Smith during the Hawkeyes' 83-61 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Ally Disterhoft and her Iowa teammates have had plenty of time to think about what went wrong in Saturday’s loss at No. 21 Michigan State.

There was plenty to think about.

Iowa (13-5, 3-3 Big Ten) watched a 16-point halftime lead evaporate as Michigan State outscored the Hawkeyes 57-37 in the second half.

Michigan State outscored Iowa 23-11 in the third quarter before exploding for 34 points in the final 10 minutes, becoming the fourth consecutive Big Ten foe to outscore Iowa in the second half.

After thinking about Saturday's loss for 48 hours, Disterhoft had the source of Iowa's second half struggles pegged: too much thinking.

“In the second half we need to just stop overthinking things and go out and play,” Disterhoft said. “You can’t just play one half and expect to get a 'W,' you have to put together two halves in the Big Ten because if you let up or if the other team pumps up their defense things are going to turn out a little differently.”

For the second time in four games Iowa saw just how quickly things can change.

Michigan State opened the third quarter with an 11-2 run to cut Iowa’s 36-23 halftime lead to four points.

The Spartans used a 12-0 run to open the fourth quarter to become the second team this season to overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half to beat the Hawkeyes.

“We had a good lead at halftime and they came out and scored two quick ones and we had turnovers so it was kind of like we just started out with bad karma, bad feelings with having the turnovers and them scoring,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “You are going to have turnovers, if you have a turnover though you have to dig your heels in on defense and I don’t think we did that against this team.”

Over its last four games Iowa has been outscored by 48 points in the second half after holding halftime leads in three of those four games.

The damage has been worse for the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter, where opponents have outscored Iowa by 45 points in the past four games.

In six Big Ten games Iowa has been outscored 132-84 in the fourth quarter.

“We are all aware of it and it’s something that we have discussed at length so it’s just coming out there and finishing the game,” Iowa sophomore Whitney Jennings said. “That’s really what it comes down to is having that mental toughness.”

Disterhoft, who scored nine of her 13 points in the second half on Saturday, was adamant that Iowa can’t think about what has happened in the second half of games this season when it faces Penn State on Wednesday.

“We need to stop focusing on whether it’s the second half or we’ve lost leads, I think you have to have a blank slate when it comes to that,” Disterhoft said. “Going forward we just have to attack the second half.”

If Iowa can translate what it has done in the first two quarters after halftime, the Hawkeyes will be hard to handle.

Iowa shot 60 percent in the first half on Saturday while building its 13-point halftime lead.

The Hawkeyes have shot 47 percent or better in the first half of all but two Big Ten games.

“We need to come together, make those adjustments and just go into the second half of games confident,” Disterhoft said. “We can’t play not to lose, we have to play to win and we have to do that the whole time all four quarters.

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or rmurken@press-citizen.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.