Feb. 28, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s basketball team knew its challenge with two regular season games remaining.
The Hawkeyes entered Senior Night on Thursday sitting with 17 wins and knowing that 19 looks a heck of a lot better to the NCAA Selection Committee than 17 or 18.
“You don’t get the second one without the first one,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said after Iowa’s come-from-behind 75-70 victory against Indiana on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We felt like we needed two wins this week, so this one is enormous.”
On a night when the UI program honored seniors Morgan Johnson, Trisha Nesbitt, and Jaime Printy, a sophomore sharpshooter came off the bench to score a team-high 22 points and help dig the Hawkeyes out of an 18-point hole. Melissa Dixon made 5-of-13 3-point field goals — four coming in the first half — as she all but cemented the Big Ten Conference Sixth Player of the Year Award. Iowa outscored the Hoosiers 22-0 in bench points, and all 22 came from Dixon.
“You would have to be silly not to vote her as Sixth Player of the Year in our conference,” Bluder said. “To me, it’s a lock-in, but even if she doesn’t get it, we know she is deserving of it.”
The Hawkeyes (18-11 overall, 7-8 Big Ten) grabbed their first lead at 62-60 with 5:20 remaining on a layup by Dixon. Their second lead was 65-62 thanks to a 3-pointer from Printy, who up to that point was 1-of-9 from long range.
“As a shooter you have to keep shooting and keep believing that the next one is going in,” Printy said. “My whole life I’ve been taught to not think about the past and just think about the next shot.”
Indiana (11-17, 2-13) scored 14 of the game’s first 16 points and led by 18 (36-18) after Jasmine McGhee made the second of two free throws with 6:16 left in the first half. The Hawkeyes whittled the lead to seven points (41-34) after a layup by Bethany Doolittle four minutes later. Hoosier Nicole Bell made it 44-34 at the break when she sank her second 3-pointer — and the team’s ninth — of the first 20 minutes.
Aulani Sinclair, who entered the game as Indiana’s second-leading scorer in Big Ten play at 11.4 points per game, scored 21 in the first half behind a 5-of-7 effort from behind the arc. She finished with 31 points and seven 3-pointers.
“We kept telling ourselves we’re going to get the next one and focus on the next stop or the next play,” Johnson said. “After we got down 18, we put a stake in the ground and said, `No more.’ We said we were going to focus on getting the next stop or the next offensive play. Focusing on those little gains is what got us going.”
While Sinclair was lighting it up for the Hoosiers, Dixon was doing her best to keep pace for Iowa. She made 4-of-9 3-point attempts and had 14 points at halftime.
“I love playing with these seniors so much that I was willing to do whatever it took to win the game,” Dixon said. “I did not want them to go off on a loss. I just kept fighting and tried to make the shots to help us win.”
Iowa forced 21 turnovers and feasted on the Hoosier miscues to the tune of 27 points. The Hawkeyes handed out 20 assists, the most since compiling 23 against Texas on Dec. 28. Sophomore Samantha Logic dished off a game-high eight assists, tying her with Cara Consuegra for the most assists in a season at the UI with 191.
The Hawkeyes shot 60.9 percent from the field in the second half (14-of-23) and outscored Indiana 41-26 over the final 20 minutes. Johnson scored 17 points with nine rebounds, Printy added 14 points and six assists, and junior Theairra Taylor scored 11 points with three assists and two blocked shots. A 3-pointer by Taylor with 2:39 left gave Iowa a 68-65 lead, and it would not trail again.
“It was obviously down to the wire,” Bluder said. “I was proud of them for getting it done in crunch time.”
The win is the second in three games for Iowa, but also its second in the last seven outings.
“It felt great to win again and we want to do it again Sunday,” Bluder said. “We’re pretty happy.”
The Hawkeyes wrap up the regular season Sunday at Northwestern (13-15, 5-10) with a 2 p.m. (CT) tip. The Wildcats stunned Iowa 67-65 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 3. Northwestern lost 55-50 at Michigan on Feb. 28.