The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Disterhoft ready for Nebraska

Lisa Bluder knew entering the 2014 season that she had a plethora of returning talent and that the offense alone would make her Hawkeye squad a force to be reckoned with.

In seniors Sam Logic, Melissa Dixon, and Bethany Doolittle, Bluder has one of the best point guards in Big Ten history, a fast-rising sharpshooter for the ages, and one of the more dominant post players at Iowa in recent memory.

With them was fellow returning starter Ally Disterhoft. The sophomore claimed a starting spot midway through her freshman season and emphatically showed fans that she is the next big thing.

Now, perhaps quicker than expected, she is a bona fide big thing.

Iowa City’s prodigal daughter is the team’s leading scorer at 16 points per game, which is coming on 46 percent shooting from the floor. In the past couple of weeks, though, her season averages do her a disservice.

Beginning with the 78-72 overtime victory over Nebraska on Jan. 26, Disterhoft turned in four-consecutive 20-point performances, and she was on pace for a fifth on the road at Wisconsin on Sunday before Bluder pulled her starters. In those five games, the 6-foot forward averaged 20.4 points on 48 percent shooting and corralled 7.4 rebounds.

Disterhoft has turned into another deadly weapon on the floor, and it only makes the Hawkeyes that much more dangerous.

“It’s pick your poison against us, and that’s a good thing for us,” Bluder said.

Pinpointing how Disterhoft has gone about taking the next step could betray the eye test. She plays the same way she has all season; she’s not a chucker, and it rarely seems that the team makes a concerted effort to feed her the ball. Instead, the numbers show that she has merely increased her efficiency with the touches she gets.

Shooting just 34 percent from 3-point line on the season, Disterhoft has suddenly found her stroke from the outside and is shooting 47 percent in the five-game stretch. And she has become downright dominant attacking the basket.

Despite her slender stature, Disterhoft is a fearless driver and as a result, has a resounding team lead in free throws attempted. She has made teams pay for it recently. She is 31-of-36 (86-percent) from the line in the past five contests, a marked improvement from her 78 percent clip on the year, good enough for 12th in the conference.

“She’s always been a good driver, good finisher,” Doolittle said. “But this year, she’s been really aggressive going toward the basket. Also, her shot has been falling a little bit more recently, and I think her confidence is going up.”

If there’s a time for confidence to peak, it’s right now. The Hawkeyes have only six games remaining in the regular season, with three against teams they’ve already played. In such a matchup, the victor often comes down to, bluntly, who can play better.

“In the Big Ten, especially when you get late into the season, everyone knows everyone’s personnel so well,” freshman guard Whitney Jennings said. “So it’s just coming out and executing, hitting shots, and playing D, and just seeing who executes better when it comes down to it.”

Disterhoft will be essential when the No. 14 Hawkeyes travel to No. 20 Nebraska today, and her teammates know she’ll be up for the challenge.

“Ally has a tough mind; she’s goes out there and is intense all the time,” Doolittle said. “She’s one of our players who will get in people’s faces, and it’s always fun for us to see that.”

Follow @KyleFMann on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.

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