Alexa Kastanek's 'perfect' night sends Hawkeyes to WNIT quarterfinals

Women's basketball: Iowa shoots down Colorado, 80-62, will host again Sunday

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IOWA CITY — It was a "perfect" ending, without the ending.

Alexa Kastanek rang up a season-best 19 points as Iowa shredded Colorado, 80-62, in a third-round WNIT women’s basketball game Thursday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“I’m so happy for Lex,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “Her senior year, having a game like that, it’s perfect ... it’s absolutely perfect for her.”

Kastanek’s output has dwindled this season in minutes, points and opportunities, but with the Buffaloes collapsing on Megan Gustafson inside, the perimeter became a weapon.

And Kastanek capitalized, draining 5 of 9 shots from 3-point range.

“My teammates got me open shots,” she said. “The first one, my feet were set. And when the first one falls and you get the lid off the rim, you keep shooting.”

For the Hawkeyes (20-13), it’s three down, three to go for a WNIT title. They’ll host Washington State (15-19) in a quarterfinal at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Cougars defeated UC-Davis, 71-62, Thursday.

A win Sunday would be No. 700 for Bluder. She is 343-201 in 17 seasons at Iowa after six years at St. Ambrose and 10 at Drake.

“It’s just special adding to a legacy that’s known for excellence,” Kastanek said. “For us, it’s just been a tremendous experience, and we’re just grateful to continue to add to it.”

The Hawkeyes led from tip to final horn, blowing it open with a 17-0 second-quarter run that featured five 3-pointers.

Ally Disterhoft started it with a trey, then it was Makenzie Meyer’s turn.

After Hannah Stewart grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Chase Coley for an easy basket inside, Meyer hit another 3-pointer and Kastanek nailed two in a row for a 44-22 advantage.

It was 48-29 at halftime, then the largest margin was 56-31 on Kathleen Doyle’s layup early in the third quarter.

Disterhoft added 15 points, pushing her school-record mark to 2,086. Meyer tallied 13 points.

Coming off a 33-point, 13-rebound gem in a second-round win over South Dakota on Saturday, Gustafson settled for 12 points and eight rebounds Thursday.

“She is a great interior player, and yeah, there was a focus on being able to contain her,” Colorado Coach J.R. Payne said. “We didn’t expect to stop her, but working to contain her, and obviously that opened up the shooters more.”

Gustafson became the fourth player in school history to score 600 points in a season, and the first in 27 years. She has 609 points, joining Cindy Haugejorde (693 points, 1979-80), Michelle Edwards (621, 1987-88) and Franthea Price (614, 1989-90) on a very short list.

“I have to credit my teammates,” Gustafson said. “They always do a great job setting me up. Game after game, my coaches and my teammates believe in me.

“(The Buffaloes) were collapsing inside, and we were able to get it to our (outside) shooters.”

Haley Smith led Colorado (17-16) with 25 points. Ariana Freeman added 12.

The Hawkeyes limited all-Pac 12 point guard Kennedy Smith to six points on 2-of-14 shooting. Smith turned it over six times.

“We wanted to mix up our defenses and try to really make her think out there, not get into a rhythm,” Bluder said. “We tried to really make her work hard for her points and wear her out a little bit.”

Iowa won its eighth consecutive home game.

IOWA 80, COLORADO 62

WNIT Third Round, at Iowa City

COLORADO (62): Makenzie Ellis 4-11 0-2 9, Zoe Correal 1-2 0-0 2, Quinessa Caylao-Do 1-2 0-0 2, Kennedy Leonard 2-14 0-0 6, Haley Smith 9-15 4-7 25, Alexis Robinson 0-0 0-0 0, Bri Watts 0-0 0-0 0, Ariana Freeman 6-14 0-0 12, Brecca Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Monica Burich 0-2 0-0 0, Zoe Bears-Fails 3-6 0-0 6. Totals 26-67 4-9 62.

IOWA (80): Megan Gustafson 4-7 4-4 12, Ally Disterhoft 5-9 4-5 15, Makenzie Meyer 4-9 2-4 13, Kathleen Doyle 4-10 1-2 9, Bre Cera 1-2 0-0 2, Alexa Kastanek 7-11 0-0 19, Chase Coley 1-2 2-2 4, Hannah Stewart 3-7 0-0 6, Christina Buttenham 0-0 0-0 0, Hailey Schneden 0-1 0-0 0, Amanda Ollinger 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-59 13-17 80.

Halftime: Iowa 48, Colorado 29. 3-point goals: Colorado 6-18 (Ellis 1-4, Leonard 2-8, Smith 3-3, Thomas 0-1, Burich 0-2), Iowa 9-25 (Disterhoft 1-2, Meyer 3-7, Doyle 0-5, Cera 0-1, Kastanek 5-9, Ollinger 0-1). Team fouls: Colorado 22, Iowa 10. Fouled out: Correal. Rebounds: Colorado 41 (Ellis 9), Iowa 33 (Gustafson 8). Assists: Colorado 8 (Leonard 5), Iowa 15 (Disterhoft 4). Steals: Colorado 10 (Smith 3), Iowa 9 (Doyle 3). Turnovers: Colorado 18, Iowa 14.

Attendance: 3,735.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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