Iowa women's basketball 2016-17 ... not good, not bad, not memorable

Shooting, toughness need to improve for NCAA return

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IOWA CITY — It was a season.

Not a great season. Not a lousy season.

And, take away some individual benchmarks, it won’t go down as a particularly memorable season for the University of Iowa women’s basketball program.

The road ended for the Hawkeyes (20-14) in the WNIT quarterfinals, a 74-66 loss to a Washington State outfit that marches into the semifinals at 16-19.

“I think they turned up their defensive intensity a little bit,” senior Ally Disterhoft said. “We tried to buckle down a little bit in the second half, but they’re just a very physical team, and they stuck with it.”

And there’s the game — and perhaps, the season — in a paragraph or so.

Washington State was a physical team. Iowa is a finesse team, and if you’re a finesse team, you have to shoot well.

The Hawkeyes were 0-for-13 from 3-point range in the second half Sunday.

It wasn’t the first time. Perennially a strong 3-point shooting team, the Hawkeyes shot just 31.1 percent from long distance this season.

In the final question of the final postgame press conference of the season, Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder was asked what the offseason priorities will be.

“Right now, I want to say box-outs,” she said. “Three-point shooting, that will be another one.”

Sunday’s loss marked the end of the careers of Disterhoft, Alexa Kastanek and Hailey Schneden.

The former subject as a little girl on an Iowa poster, Disterhoft fulfilled her dream by becoming a Hawkeye, and leaves as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,102 points.

“It’s tough,” she said. “The program has given me so much these last four years. Obviously, I’m going to miss it. I’m always going to be a Hawkeye, though, whether I’m wearing that jersey or not.”

Kastanek’s production dropped dramatically this season, when she averaged 3.7 points per game. Schneden scored 13 points in her career.

Iowa returns 73 percent of its scoring for 2017-18, and there is reason to believe the Hawkeyes can end their NCAA-less streak at two years, if things fall into place.

Much of the source for belief centers around their center.

Sophomore Megan Gustafson enjoyed a breakout year in which she averaged 18.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, collecting 18 double-doubles, and earned first-team Big Ten honors.

Gustafson set the single-season rebounding record (343), and her 628 points this season is the second-most in school history.

If Gustafson wasn’t Iowa’s most improved player this season, it was sophomore Hannah Stewart, who developed into a capable backup in the post.

Point guard Tania Davis (10.9 ppg) tore her ACL on Feb. 5, forcing Bluder to move freshman Kathleen Doyle (9.2 ppg) to the point.

Doyle responded by setting the freshman record for assists (148), and led the team in steals (71).

If Davis isn’t ready for the start of next season, Doyle will be the point guard. If she is, then Bluder has some decisions to make.

Makenzie Meyer (6.8 ppg) is solid on the perimeter. The freshman was Iowa’s most consistent outside threat, shooting 36 percent from the floor.

That leaves the forward slots. Freshman Bre Cera started 18 games and wasn’t much of an offensive threat, averaging 2.0 points per game. But she does provide toughness.

Chase Coley made a puzzling regression this season. The junior’s production fell from 11.1 points per game in 2015-16 to 4.0 this season. Christina Buttenham and Carly Mohns finished much of the late part of the season on the disabled list, and Amanda Ollinger’s minutes were limited. Throw Davenport North all-stater Jinaya Houston — the only incoming freshman for 2017-18 — into the mix, and somebody in this group has to develop if the Hawkeyes are to climb from the middle of the Big Ten.

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