Platoon, newcomers come through

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Ting Xuan Tan

Iowa’s no. 2 Ally Disterhoft drives the ball during a basketball match at the Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Notre Dame defeated Iowa 73-58. (The Daily Iowan/Ting Xuan Tan)

By Michael McCurdy

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Finals week has caused a break in action for the 8-3 Iowa women’s basketball team. The Hawkeyes are coming off of a week in which they went 3-0, with two of the wins against Iowa State and Northern Iowa.

With a week off, players, coaches, and journalists can sit back and reflect on the first half of the season — what has worked well and what Iowa can leave behind in 2016. So far, senior Ally Disterhoft has showcased her ability to evolve her game by playing behind the 3-point arc. Sophomore Megan Gustafson has demonstrated the progression of her offense in the post compared with last season, which has enabled her to be a tough matchup in the paint.

Before the season started, many wondered which freshman among the three guards would have the biggest impact on the team. After 11 games, it’s safe to say Kathleen Doyle has produced the best minutes out of the group because of her aggressive, never-quit defensive mindset and her fearlessness on offense.

The biggest question mark coming into this season was how Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder would use her deep bench. Four minutes into the season-opener, Bluder subbed five new players in for the starters, and as a result, the platoon system has been a consistent effort for the first half of the season.

The underlying reason the platoon system has worked so far is because different players from the bench have stepped up at different moments.

Sophomore Hannah Stewart is averaging 7 points per game this season with a .581 field-goal percentage, making her the best bench weapon offensively for the Hawkeyes.

Bluder has been well aware of Stewart’s offensive efforts this season, and thinks the production comes more from her ability to take what’s given to her rather than to force shots.

“She’s playing well for us,” Bluder said. “She doesn’t force anything. She doesn’t create things. She just takes what’s there, and that’s what’s great. I’m really glad to see her minutes. She’s doing a really good job backing up Megan.”

While Stewart has made her mark on the offensive end, junior Christina Buttenham out of all the bench players is Bluder’s go-to when she needs fresh legs for defense. Buttenham is a quick 5-11 forward who’s physical enough to guard the strong forwards and fast enough to stay in front of opposing guards. She’s tallied 158 minutes so far this season, and none of those were more crucial than the 17 minutes and 10 points she logged in the Iowa State game.

With Big Ten play approaching, Bluder will have to make a key decision on whether she’s going to continue each game subbing five in and five out. As of now, it seems she will maintain the platoon system because each unit provides much needed breaks for the other.

“I always think fresh legs are good for everything. Pushing the ball, defensively, it just helps.” Bluder said. “You’re going against somebody that’s a little more fatigued, you have the advantage, so you use it.”

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