The start of the Big Ten season couldn’t have gone much worse for the Penn State women’s basketball team.
No. 23 Iowa outscored the Lady Lions 16-1 in the opening minutes and the three-time defending conference champions never recovered in a 77-52 rout at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Melissa Dixon led five Hawkeyes in double figures with 21 points. Lindsey Spann had 22 points and was the lone Lady Lion to score in double figures.
Dixon, Ally Disterhoft and Bethany Doolittle did all of the damage as Iowa (10-2) tore into Penn State (3-9) at the start. The trio combined for all 16 of the points in the opening salvo. Disterhoft had seven and Dixon had five, including a 3-pointer that made it 16-1 with 13:49 left in the half.
“It was nice to see, especially since Penn State is a little bit of a younger team and they don’t have a lot of experience,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “That can really mess with you mentally when you get down on the road that quickly, so I thought that was a great way to start this game.”
Penn State bounced back behind Spann, who had seven points in a five-minute rally. Spann’s 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down brought the Lady Lions to within 20-16 with 8:05 left in the half.
Penn State couldn’t sustain the momentum and the Hawkeyes pulled away, again. Freshman Christina Buttenham came off the bench to give Iowa a boost, scoring nine points down the stretch.
Iowa ended the half with a 15-6 run over the final six minutes to take a 41-24 halftime lead. Dixon had 14 points in the half and nailed four 3-pointers. Iowa made 7 of 13 3-pointers and shot 50 percent (15 of 30) in the half.
The second half didn’t start out any better than the first 20 minutes.
Iowa outscored the Lady Lions 9-2 as the lead ballooned to 50-26. That made it a 30-10 Hawkeye run since Penn State closed within four points.
Spann provided the only consistent offense in the half for Penn State. Her conventional 3-point play, followed by a 3-pointer, brought the Lady Lions to within 53-37 with 12 minutes remaining, but they would get no closer.
Dixon had five points in a 12-4 run that pushed the lead back to 65-41 with 7:43 left.
“Starting out the Big Ten season, you always want to defend the home court,” Disterhoft said. “That’s what we did today.”
Penn State shot just 31.6 percent (18 of 57) for the game and committed 24 turnovers.
Iowa connected on 46.7 percent (28 of 60) of its shots and made 9 of 22 3-pointers. Led by a career-high eight from Disterhoft and five by Samantha Logic, the Hawkeyes had 21 assists. They also had 18 turnovers.
Spann had her fourth 20-point game of the season, but was 6 of 21 from the floor. In her second game of the season, Alex Harris tied a career high with 11 rebounds.
Candice Agee had nine points on 4 of 5 shooting, but played just nine minutes. She and fellow starter Sierra Moore each played just two minutes in the second half.
Doolittle had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks for the Hawkeyes. Whitney Jennings, Disterhoft and Buttenham had 11 points each.
Penn State returns to action at Michigan (8-4, 0-1) at 1 p.m. Thursday. The Wolverines fell 63-53 at Wisconsin on Sunday.
Notes: Penn State now leads the series against Iowa 26-19. … Doolittle (1,005) became the 31st player in Iowa history to reach 1,000 career points. … Penn State dropped to 13-10 all-time in Big Ten road openers. ... The Lady Lions dropped to 244-119 all-time in Big Ten play. … Penn State had its four-game winning streak at Carver-Hawkeye Arena snapped.