Late push not enough for Iowa against SDSU in Hawkeye Challenge

Matthew Bain
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder calls to players during the Hawkeyes' game against Oral Roberts at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — For the last 10 minutes Sunday afternoon, Iowa was clearly the better side in its Hawkeye Challenge final against South Dakota State.

The hole from the first 30 minutes proved too deep, though. Macy Miller’s mid-range jumper with 1.7 seconds left capped SDSU’s 66-64 win against the Hawkeyes.

SDSU led for 38:54, while Iowa never held a lead.

“We knew coming in this was going to be our stiffest opponent of the year,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “And obviously, right from the bat, they kind of took it at us.”

SDSU has made seven NCAA Tournaments since becoming a Division I program in 2004. It's enjoyed nine 20-win seasons in the past 10 years as one of the hidden gems in women's college basketball.

And through three quarters, that hidden gem led Iowa 54-41. The Jackrabbits outshot Iowa 42.3 percent to 36.7 percent. They out-rebounded Iowa 37-33. They had 10 turnovers, compared to the Hawkeyes' 17. Plus, points 52, 53 and 54 came on a back-breaking 40-foot heave from Madison Guebert at the third quarter buzzer.

“I thought in the first half, they got just about anything they wanted, quite honestly,” Bluder said. “I was really discouraged with our defense the first half.”

Then those final 10 minutes happened.

Iowa women takeaways: Bring on the zone, historically good defense

The Hawkeyes used a mixture of defenses — a 1-3-1 zone, a 3-2 zone, man-to-man — to finally disrupt SDSU’s steamroll rhythm. Iowa forced six turnovers in the fourth, and converted those into 10 points.

Meanwhile, it committed zero turnovers on offense and shot 10 of 19, compared to SDSU’s four of 11. It outscored SDSU 23-12 in the final frame.

Megan Gustafson tied the game at 64-all when she grabbed Tania Davis’ miss for a quick offensive putback with 5 seconds left. That was the game's first tie since it was 0-0 in the opening seconds.

“I think we had more energy, honestly, in the second half,” Gustafson said. “Especially in the fourth quarter.”

Iowa trailed 63-57 with 1:06 left before Davis drained a spot-up 3. After a rare Miller miss, Ally Disterhoft came back with a straight-away 2-pointer to make it 63-62 with 31 seconds left. (Her feet were inches from 3-point land.)

Miller then knocked down one of two free throws to make it 64-62 and set up the hectic finish. She led all scorers with 22 points on nine of 18 shooting.

Gustafson led Iowa with yet another double-double — 21 points and 13 rebounds. It was perhaps her best statistical performance, and it came against the toughest interior defense she’s faced.

Disterhoft wound up with 16 points and nine rebounds. She and Gustafson combined to score 16 of Iowa’s 23 fourth-quarter points. Together they netted 37 of Iowa's 64 points. No one else scored more than six.

“I think overall as a team, this was a really good learning experience,” Gustafson said. “Just because we’re not used to having the other team go on a run right away.”

No. 11 UCLA sure might go on a run right away. Iowa, now 4-1, faces the 4-1 Bruins next at 8 p.m. Nov. 24 in Cancun, Mexico.