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Back on track?

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

A three-game losing streak that featured an ugly home loss to Penn State sandwiched between road losses to Michigan State and Purdue, the Iowa women finally got back in the win column with an 85-69 win at home over Michigan to improve to 14-7, 4-5 in the Big Ten. The three-game losing streak was Iowa's longest since a five-game skid late in the 2012-13 season.  Reeling after three straight losses (and dropping five of their last six games since beating Rutgers at home at the beginning of January), Michigan (11-8, 3-5 B1G entering the game) proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Iowa.

That said, Iowa didn't pull away until the second half.  The game was tied 23-all after the first quarter and Iowa had a slim 42-41 lead at halftime.  But the Hawkeyes outscored the Wolverines 43-28 in the second half (including 20-12 in the final quarter, which has been a bugaboo for Iowa in recent games, including the game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, where they blew a 17-point second half lead) to pull away and pick up a comfortable (and much-needed) win.  The keys for Iowa?  They limited turnovers to 12 (Michigan got just 8 points off those 12 giveaways) and demolished Michigan in bench scoring (33-6, although all six of Michigan's bench points came from the delightfully-named Boogie Brozoski, so it feels like they should have been worth more) and at the free throw line (Iowa made 26/31 freebies, while Michigan made just 9/14).  Making almost twice as many free throws as your opponent attempts is a pretty good way to put yourself in position to win a game, as it turns out.

The biggest source of those bench points for Iowa was Chase Coley, who came off the bench to score a team-high 21 points on 7/9 shooting (including 7/8 on free throws).  She also added 10 rebounds to complete her double-double.  Iowa's other young post player, Megan Gustafson, also tallied a double-double (10 points on 3/10 shooting and 12 rebounds).  Gustafson replaced Coley in the starting lineup, but both played a lot (54 minutes combined on Thursday) and played very well.  The other standout was freshman point guard Tania Davis, who had a career-high 18 points on 6/10 shooting (including 4/8 from deep), to go with 5 assists and 0 turnovers.  Performances like that are why she was a very highly-regarded recruit and hint at her very exciting future at Iowa.  Ally Disterhoft added 16 points and 5 rebounds for Iowa.  Disterhoft and Davis were the only Hawkeyes who could get anything going from deep -- they combined to go 7/15, while the rest of the team went just 2/13 from deep.  Luckily, Iowa made 52% of their 2-point attempts in this game.

Michigan wasn't the stiffest competition -- but neither was Penn State and they knocked off the Hawkeyes at home a week ago.  This was a much-needed win for the Hawkeyes and they got it., avoiding what would have been another damaging loss to their NCAA Tournament resume. Iowa was down to a #9 seed and a spot in the "Last Four In" group in ESPN's last Bracketology update, so they certainly needed a win to stop that slide. Iowa heads on the road now to take on Northwestern (13-8, 2-7 B1G) on Sunday (2 PM CT, BTN Plus) and Indiana (13-8, 5-4 B1G) next Thursday (6 PM CT, BTN). Iowa has two very challenging home games after that against #18 Michigan State (15-4, 6-2 B1G) and #7 Ohio State (16-4, 8-1 B1G), so picking up a few road wins now would be very useful.