While the men's basketball team is getting a great deal of (well-deserved) attention this year, it would be a mistake to ignore Iowa's other basketball, too. Because the ladies can flat out ball this year. On Monday night they picked up their 19th win of the season (against just six losses) and improved to 7-4 in Big Ten play, just two games back of league leader Penn State (who Iowa beat on the road in impressive fashion last week). Most importantly, though, the win was Lisa Bluder's 270th win at Iowa, breaking a tie with former Iowa coach C. Vivian Stringer for the most wins all-time at Iowa. Bluder now has that record all to herself; congratulations, Coach Bluder. That's one hell of an accomplishment.
There's video footage of Bluder's postgame comments (as well as a video that Iowa put together to honor her) available here.
In the game itself, Iowa used a strong shooting performance (33/64, or 51.6%, overall and 26/46, or 56.5%, on 2-point shots) to edge Northwestern, 90-84. Iowa made it more interesting than it probably needed to be down the stretch by missing several free throws and having a few dumb turnovers, but in all they shot very well and Northwestern wasn't able to slow them down much on defense. Melissa Dixon led Iowa with 24 points and did most of her damage from behind the 3-point line (6/9 from deep). Dixon was ably assisted by Iowa's best player, Samantha Logic, who screwed around (not really) and almost got another triple-double (20 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds). She already has two triple doubles this season (the most recent one came in last Thursday's win over Penn State: 14 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists).
Not surprisingly, Logic's recent run of stellar form netted her Big Ten Player of the Week honors:
PSD talked about Roy Devyn Marble's case for Big Ten Player of the Year earlier today, but it's getting to the point where we should probably wonder about Logic's case, too. Here are her stats in B1G play:
PPG: 14.5 (14th)
RPG: 7.2 (10th)
APG: 8.2 (1st)
SPG: 2.9 (1st)
FG%: .496 (10th)
FT%: .868 (10th)
A/TO: 2.1 (3rd)
Several other players are better than her at scoring or rebounding, but no one comes close to matching her all-around excellence and versatility. She's also an ironman (ironwoman?), playing the full 40 minutes in three of Iowa's last four games. (She played 38 last night -- slacker.)
Aside from Logic and Dixon, Iowa's also received key contributions this year from Bethany Doolittle and Ally Disterhoft. Doolittle is Iowa's main (read: only) post threat and she's been very effective: 14.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and a B1G-best 3.4 blocks per game. Disterhoft, a true freshman out of Iowa City West and a top 100 recruit a year ago, has made an immediate impact as another perimeter scoring threat for the Hawks. She's averaging 13.1 ppg on a scorching 53.6 FG%, including a team-best 43.3% from deep. She's only started six games this season, too, so she's likely a contender for Sixth Woman of the Year in the Big Ten (as well as Newcomer of the Year, possibly).
In all, offense is unquestionably Iowa's calling card. Iowa's averaging 79.7 ppg, 24th best in the nation. In B1G play alone, they're averaging 76.9 ppg, a full 2 ppg better than the next highest-scoring team (Purdue). Unfortunately, they're also dead last in the B1G in scoring defense, conceding 76.0 ppg. So yeah: the Iowa women are going to run, they're going to try and score a lot of points... but they're also going to give up a lot of points. When Iowa's shots are falling, they're very capable of beating almost anyone. Unfortunately, when their shots are off, they're in big trouble.
At 19-6, 7-4 in Big Ten play, Iowa's firmly in the NCAA Tournament field. The most recent Bracketology update at ESPN has them as a 7-seed, taking on 10-seed Florida. Like last year, Iowa City is a host site for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and, since the women's NCAA Tournament is all about getting as many butts in seats as possible, Iowa will get to play at home for one (and two, if they win) game in the tournament. Iowa's made the NCAA Tournament six straight years and is on the cusp of making it for a seventh straight year; they've been a remarkably consistent team under Bluder. The only thing she hasn't been able to at Iowa: get past the second round. The ability of this team to accomplish that feat will likely depend on what matchups they get in the NCAA Tournament -- and that will depend on how high they can get their seed. The problem with being a 7-8-9 seed, of course, is that you get stuck playing a 1 or 2 seed in the second round if you get out of the first round; unsurprisingly, playing one of the eight best teams in the country is a losing proposition more often than not. Still, that's a matter for another day. For now, we should just celebrate Iowa's other very good basketball team -- and their history-making coach.