By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
IOWA CITY — Lisa Bluder talked about how the Iowa women’s basketball team has played 12 consecutive strong quarters.
The first quarter of Saturday’s 108-67 win over Penn State was historic.
The 12th-ranked Hawkeyes (14-4 overall, 6-1) outscored the Nittany Lions (11-7, 2-5) 34-15 in the quarter, shooting 75 percent while recording 13 assists, a new program record for a quarter.
“I thought in the first quarter, we took control immediately,” Bluder said.
Was it perfect?
“Almost,” the Iowa coach responded. “I mean, when you shoot 75 percent from the field, it doesn’t get a whole lot better.”
Actually, it was a lot better before the Hawkeyes had some late misses. Iowa opened the game by making 13 of its first 14 shots, leading 30-10 with 2:06 left in the quarter.
“I think it was good to just see everything come together,” said forward McKenna Warnock, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Iowa held the Nittany Lions to 37.5 percent shooting, with just six field goals.
“I think it all started on defense for us,” said guard Caitlin Clark, who led the Hawkeyes with 27 points and 10 assists for her 33rd career double-double. “I think we really had good stops on the defensive end.”
It was an early start for the Hawkeyes with an 11:30 a.m. tipoff — “I wouldn’t say it was my first choice (for a prime tipoff time), but if we play like this all the time I’ll play at 11:30,” quipped Clark — but they made it look easy. They ended up shooting 54.5 percent for the game, and led by as much as 45 points late in the game.
Iowa had 26 assists and only 11 turnovers.
“They were having fun out there,” Bluder said. “That’s when you’re really enjoying this game, when they’re out there having fun and sharing the ball. Twenty-six assists and 11 turnovers? That’s fun basketball.”
And there was no letdown. Bluder used all 14 players on the roster, and all but two scored. The Hawkeyes got 42 bench points. Among the reserves, Sydney Affolter had 12 points, while Hannah Stuelke had 11.
“I think we just focus on kind of being a spark off the bench,” Affolter said. “We know we need to play hard when we go in (and) give our starters a break, and we want to fill those minutes and play as hard as we can.”
“When your bench comes in and plays that well, you avoid those letdowns,” Bluder said.
Iowa also got 20 points from Monika Czinano. Shay Ciezki led Penn State with 20 points.
The Hawkeyes have won three consecutive games, averaging 98 points in the wins. They stayed in second place in the Big Ten, one game behind Ohio State.
“We played four good quarters the last game (a 93-64 win over Northwestern on Wednesday) and played four good quarters this game,” Warnock said. “Hopefully we try to keep that going.”
Photo: Iowa’s Sydney Affolter (left) and Hannah Stuelke react after a basket in Saturday’s game against Penn State. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)