Performing in pressure situations is a tough task for any player, especially a freshman.
Lucky for Iowa freshman Ally Disterhoft, pressure isn’t something she believes in.
“One of my AAU coaches once told me that there is no such thing as pressure,” Disterhoft said. “I think at the beginning I was like, ‘What are you talking about’ but it’s true, it’s all mental. Once you get in big games and big-time situations like the end of this game, it’s really all mental. It’s about falling back on your fundamentals and just executing.”
Using that formula, Disterhoft has played some of her best basketball of the season in her first career Big Ten Tournament.
In Iowa’s three Big Ten Tournament wins, the West High graduate is averaging 14.7 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game.
Disterhoft has scored at least 12 points and had eight or more rebounds in all three tournament games.
“She’s not playing like a freshman, is she?” Bluder said. “She’s playing like a seasoned player. She is playing with authority out there. She is not scared and not backing down to anybody.”
Disterhoft missed her first nine shots in Friday’s quarterfinal game but rebounded to finish with 12 points, including a pair of big baskets in the final minutes.
In Saturday’s 77-73 semifinal win over Ohio State, the 6-foot-0 Disterhoft had defensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions in the final 90 seconds to secure the win.
“It’s so much fun to see her development and see her confidence grow,” Bluder said. “Her rebounds at the end, she was one that was grabbing those defensive boards at the end when we had to have them.”
With 18 points against the Buckeyes, Disterhoft now has 429 on the season — the second most by an Iowa freshman.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup on Jan. 19 at Ohio State, Disterhoft has reached double figures in scoring in 14 of 15 games.
“She’s just fearless, she is not afraid to take the ball to the hoop,” Bluder said. “I’m thrilled with how she is playing right now.”
Disterhoft and the Hawkeyes will now have less than 24 hours to find a way to slow down Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers have won 11 of their last 12 games after downing No.19 Michigan State 86-58 in the second semifinal Saturday.
Nebraska shot 52 percent in the win over the Spartans, including 63 percent in the first half while building a 50-27 lead.
“You can’t really change a whole lot of things overnight without a practice, so it’s got to be mental more than anything else,” Bluder said. “We can watch film, we can watch them play out there and we can look at the scouting report, but then it becomes just about between your ears.”
Today’s championship has the makings of a possible shootout.
Nebraska is averaging 83 points in two tournament games while Iowa is averaging 81.6 points in its three wins in Indianapolis.
“Iowa is really hard to guard, they can really space the floor on you,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. “They have got a really good interior player in Doolittle and then they have got four perimeters that can shoot it and drive it, and they’re a very, very challenging team to defend. So if the game goes as we think it might go, there might be some scoring in this game. So we’re going to have to find a way to score.”
NOTES: The win Saturday was Iowa’s third of the season over Ohio State by a combined 15 points. … In two Big Ten Tournament games, Nebraska sophomore point guard Rachel Theriot has 26 assists and three turnovers. … Big Ten player of the year Jordan Hooper is averaging 24 points and seven rebounds in two Big Ten tournament games. … With her four 3-pointers on Saturday Iowa junior Melissa Dixon became the fifth player in program history with 200 3-point field goals. … Iowa senior Theairra Taylor has scored in double figures in 15 of her last 18 games.