The sophomore point guard scored 10 and added a season-high eight assists.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — It definitely looked awkward. Shot clock winding down, defender in her face, all alone on the extended left elbow beyond the arc.
Ally Disterhoft had no choice. She hesitated a couple times then loosed off an unbalanced, desperation 3-pointer as the little red numbers trickled to zero for her first shot of the game.
The ball sure didn’t want to go in, but it did. It caught the inner edge of the front rim and rolled around before finally, hesitantly, falling through.
It wasn't pretty, but it was a basket. That’s all that mattered to Disterhoft, who on Saturday finished with her best Big Ten performance in Iowa's 80-65 win over Minnesota: 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting (3 of 7 from long range), four assists, a block, a steal and no turnovers.
She needed that. Entering Saturday, Disterhoft was shooting 15.2 percent (5-for-32) on 3-point shots in conference play. And if you remove the outlying 4-for-9 performance against Nebraska, she had one made 3-pointer in her other five Big Ten games (1-for-23, 4.3 percent).
"Obviously it’s been frustrating just because I was shooting the ball so well before Big Ten (play) started," Disterhoft said. "The team has a lot of confidence in me and I know that. I know that the team wants and, at times, needs me to step up and score, and so I’m going to do that when it’s there. When it’s not, I’m going to set my teammates up the best I can and that’s what I’ve been trying to do when the shot isn’t there."
Before conference play, Disterhoft was shooting a ridiculous 48.8 percent (20-for-41) from long range, thanks in large part to a stretch of four games in late November and early December when she shot 72.2 percent (13-for-18).
There was no way she’d maintain that frenetic clip. But the dramatic drop from nearly 50 percent to 15 percent was unexpected.
Disterhoft raised her season percentage to 35, second-highest among those with more than 10 shots to Makenzie Meyer, who’s at 37.3 percent.
Maybe that clumsy shot early Saturday snapped the slump.
"It wasn’t the smoothest shot," Disterhoft said with a smile she hasn’t flashed to reporters in a long time.
It's hard to argue the Hawkeyes' win over the Gophers wasn't great.
To play, or not to play?
The Hawkeyes now have a bye week before traveling to Maryland next Saturday. There are two ways to look at that.
One: Iowa is hot. It’s riding its first winning streak since early December and its top scorer just enjoyed a potential slump-buster. Often conference play comes down to momentum, and the Hawkeyes have that.
Two: Fresh legs are never a bad thing, especially considering the Terps play two games between now and next Saturday. Outlasting the Terps physically might be the only way to beat them.
Coach Lisa Bluder’s take: "I kind of do (want to keep playing). It's also hard sitting on a loss and having a bye right after a loss. I don't know what's worse. You're on a roll and you want to keep going. I guess, really being able to practice and work on some things this week after a win is not a bad thing. Because I think you come to practice with a little more pep in your step after a win than after a loss."
The Hawkeyes are playing their best conference basketball right now. They’ve won three of their past four, and that one "L" came in a well-played game against a Final Four-quality team in Maryland.
"That does just give us a lot of confidence going forward," Disterhoft said. "We’ve been making progress all year and, like Coach said earlier, we’re playing really great team basketball.
"I think it’s always nice to rest the legs a little bit just so we can gear up for the remainder of the Big Ten season. But we’re going to use this break really constructively. We’re going to get better every day in practice."
Iowa had its first bye after the 70-58 loss at Penn State on Jan. 3. The next game? A 78-58 win against Illinois.
A look at the stats sheet
Iowa set a season-low Saturday with 11 turnovers, which the Gophers turned to seven points. It also recorded 24 assists on its 31 baskets, one shy of its season-high 25 assists against Hampton way back in mid-November.
The Hawkeyes outrebounded Minnesota, which entered the game with the fourth-most rebounds in the country, 40-34.
Minnesota had also grabbed the ninth-most offensive rebounds per game. And earl, against Iowa’s zone defense, the Gophers controlled the offensive glass. Jessie Edwards snared Kenisha Bell’s miss and got an easy put-back a minute into the game.
Iowa shored things up quickly; Edwards’ lay-in amounted to Minnesota’s only second-chance points of the game.
It was a stark contrast to Iowa's recent efforts on the glass, allowing 23 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points to Rutgers, and 20 and 21 to Maryland.
"The last couple games we haven’t had a bunch of rebounding going on with our team and I really wanted to make that a focus," said Megan Gustafson, who notched her 10th double-double with 19 points and 12 boards. "Especially coming into this game, I know they have some really good rebounders. I mean, I just put a lot of focus on rebounding and being able to get that to my teammate and we were able to get a lot of fastbreak transition, especially in the first quarter. So I think that led to everything else."
Iowa outscored Minnesota, 10-2, in transition.
Iowa's RPI jumped from 64 to 54 with the win. Its next opponent, Maryland, boasts an RPI of 16.
Bain covers Hawkeyes' basketball for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.