The Iowa women 's basketball team wrapped up their season on Sunday with a 62-45 win over Northwestern in Evanston, behind 21 points (on 8/15 shooting) from Melissa Dixon. Their reward? A first-round date in the Big Ten Tournament with... Northwestern. (In the strange coincidence department, there's a decent chance that the Iowa men could also see an immediate rematch of their final regular season opponent -- Nebraska -- in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.) The win was Iowa's second in a row and third in their final four games, which was a positive way to end the season after a brutal five-game losing streak in the early part of February.
Iowa's turnaround included a narrow win over Indiana (75-70), in which the Hawkeyes overcame some torrid shooting from the Hoosiers (59% eFG, 13/26 from 3-point range). Melissa Dixon led the Hawkeyes in that game, too, with 22 points (on 8/16) shooting, although Morgan Johnson (17), Jaime Printy (14), and Theairra Taylor (11) all scored in double figures as well. That was enough to offset a 31-point day by Indiana's Aulani Sinclair. The other win in Iowa's late-season turnaround came against Purdue, where they improbably bettered their 16-point home win over the 18th ranked Boilermakers with a 20-point win in West Lafayette. Sam Logic led the way in that game with 26 points and 9 rebounds, while Taylor added 15 points and 11 rebounds in a supporting role. For whatever reason, the Iowa ladies really, really like playing Purdue this year.
I'm not sure how close Iowa was to falling out of the NCAA Tournament picture during that five-game losing skid, but ending the season on a high note should have secured their spot in the field. The most recent Bracketology at ESPN (from Monday, March 4) has Iowa as a 10-seed facing Villanova. Given Iowa's status as a host school in this year's tournament, it's pretty likely that they would get the benefit of the doubt in any bubble scenarios. But they seem pretty secure now.
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With the regular season in the books, the Big Ten handed out all-conference honors last night. Four Hawkeyes earned recognition:
SECOND TEAM (coaches and media)
THIRD TEAM (media)
HONORABLE MENTION (coaches)
HONORABLE MENTION (media)
SIXTH PERSON OF THE YEAR (coaches)
Johnson ended the regular season averaging 14.9 ppg and 7.5 rpg, both team-bests. Printy averaged 13.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg, while Dixon rounded out Iowa's double-figure scorers with 10.3 ppg. Dixon shot 40% from 3-point range, 4th best in the Big Ten. Logic averaged 9.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg (second-best on the team -- as a point guard), and a Big Ten-best 6.6 assists per game. Her all-around game is pretty spectacular.
As noted above, Iowa's next game will be against Northwestern in the 7/10 match-up in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa and Northwestern split their two regular season games, with Iowa trouncing them in Evanston but losing on a heart-breaking last-second shot in Iowa City. If Iowa beats Northwestern, they'll play Nebraska (the 2-seed) on Friday. Iowa lost both games against Nebraska this season, 76-75 in Iowa City and 66-46 in Lincoln.
The Iowa-Northwestern game is at 11:30 am CT on Thursday, March 7, with television coverage from BTN.