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Doolittle frustrates Miami defense to lead Iowa to 88-70 second-round NCAA win

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Facing an Iowa team loaded with shooters, Miami had to let someone go.

The Hurricanes decided on center Bethany Doolittle — and the 6-foot-4 Iowa senior made them pay for it.

Doolittle scored 22 points, Ally Disterhoft had 15 and third-seeded Iowa beat 11th-seeded Miami 88-70 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, earning its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1996.

"That team is full of great players and she just had a great performance," Miami's Adrienne Motley said of Doolittle. "She just had a great performance. She played like a Division I basketball player trying to get to the Sweet 16."

Doolittle shot 8-for-16, mostly turnaround jumpers, and grabbed 11 rebounds — none bigger than the one she collected after Iowa's Samantha Logic missed a free throw with Miami trailing just 69-63.

After a couple of passes, Doolittle got free on the baseline and buried a jumper, starting a 15-3 run that all but wrapped up the victory for the Hawkeyes (26-7).

"She hit a jumper right in our face," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "That was a four-point swing in a six-point game, a huge turnaround. From that point on we just kind of broke."

Meier said her team had to sacrifice something if it wanted to check Iowa's always dangerous perimeter shooting, and the Hurricanes did a decent job, limiting long-distance star Melissa Dixon and Logic, the point guard, to one basket each in the first half.

But they ended up with no answer for Doolittle.

"Doolittle was left on her own. That was a choice we had to make," Meier said. "In the first half we overhelped and Doolittle was the recipient of that and she cleaned up on the back side. So half her points you can put on me and half we didn't execute the game plan."

Iowa shot 75 percent in the second half and 53 percent for the game to cap an 18-0 season at home.

Jessica Thomas had 20 points for Miami (20-13), which lost six of its last eight games to close the season.

Meier had Thomas, a sophomore, stay on the court to watch Iowa's victory celebration, hoping to motivate her returning players for next season.

PHOTO: Iowa guard Samantha Logic (22) drives to the basket against Miami guard Michelle Woods (10) during the first half of a women's college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, Sunday March 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthew Holst)
Iowa guard Samantha Logic (22) drives to the basket against Miami guard Michelle Woods (10) during the first half of a women's college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, Sunday March 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthew Holst)

"It hurt a little bit," Thomas said. "Somebody had to lose today. Coming back next year, putting in the motivation, just putting more work in and be ready to be a Sweet 16 team as well."

The Hawkeyes had endured seven consecutive second-round exits since last reaching a regional semifinal 19 years ago. That included losses in each of the last two years in Iowa City.

This was by far their best shot at the Sweet 16 under 15th-year coach Lisa Bluder, and Iowa made the most of it.

The Hurricanes flummoxed the Hawkeyes at times with their athleticism and limited Iowa's outside looks. But Logic shook off a cold start with a layup just before the half, and Whitney Jennings hit an awkward jumper that put Iowa ahead 38-31.

The Hurricanes tried to get back into it behind Motley, who scored their first 12 points in the second half. But Dixon finally got going with a 3 and a layup to give Iowa a 60-50 lead.

Miami's comeback attempt was hampered when Motley picked up her fourth foul midway through the second half.

As Motley knelt on the sideline waiting to check back in, Alexa Kastanek hit a layup that made it a 77-63 game with five minutes to go.

Motley finished with 18 points.

"I'm going to live with that for a while. I didn't want her to go back in on a defensive possession," Meier said. "I probably wasted two offensive possessions doing that. We unraveled a little bit during that time. But the backbreaking play that really made us lose our composure was that rebound by Doolittle."

TIP-INS

Iowa: The Hawkeyes were an 8 or a 9 seed in four of the years in which they lost in the Round of 32, which forced them to play a No. 1 seed in the second round. Last season, the sixth-seeded Hawkeyes lost by 30 points to Louisville — which many thought was vastly under-seeded to begin with.

Miami: The Hurricanes will bring back three starters next season, including Motley, and should compete for their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last six years.

UP NEXT

Iowa will play either the Lady Bears in the regional semifinals.

Miami's season is complete.

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PHOTO: Iowa guard Whitney Jennings (15) drives to the basket against Miami guard Michelle Woods (10) during the first half of a women's college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, Sunday, March 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthew Holst)
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