Fresh off their big home win over perennial nemesis, Nebraska, Iowa began a critical road game-heavy portion of their schedule last night with a trip to Welsh-Ryan Arena and a game against Northwestern. The Wildcats were a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big Ten (4-4) and you don't often walk into Evanston expecting to make basketball history... but sometimes history finds you anyway, like when Iowa wins 102-99 and 3-point shooting records tumble like bowling pins.
The two teams combined for 32 3-pointers, setting a new NCAA record for combined 3-pointers in a game. The previous record was 31.— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) January 30, 2015
Iowa broke the program and Big Ten record (18 made 3s in a game) early in the second half and appeared to have the NCAA record (22 made 3s) in their sights; alas, the 3-point shooting dried up shortly after that and they made only one more triple the rest of the night. Iowa's main bombardier was Melissa Dixon, who drained 9 three-pointers and was a staggering 9/10 from long range in the game. The really insane thing? This wasn't even the most 3-pointers she's made in a game this season. That would be the 10 (!) three-pointers (on 10/14 shooting) that she made against Drake in a 100-98 (!) win earlier this season. We said that Dixon had a down performance against Nebraska on Monday night (and she did -- 7 points on 2/6 shooting is very much a below-average performance for her) but she more than made up for it last night.
Which was good because Iowa needed every last point in this game. The stats for the game -- for both teams, not just Iowa -- are downright ridiculous:
Northwestern made 72% of their 3-pointers last night... and lost the game. Madness.
As insane as the shooting stats are -- and they are completely batshit crazy -- we also shouldn't overlook the assist stat: Iowa had 32 assists on 33 made field goals. THIRTY-TWO ASSISTS! That was also a team record, unsurprisingly.
Iowa opened the game on a 12-4 run, but Northwestern battled back to keep it close throughout much of the first half, even taking a brief lead at 30-29 with 8:20 to play. Iowa responded with a 15-2 run (featuring made 3s from Dixon, Ally Disterhoft, and Samantha Logic) that gave Iowa a 44-32 lead. A 12-4 Iowa run at the end of the half gave Iowa a 58-41 lead at the half. Iowa's lead got as big as 65-41 early in the second half, but Northwestern simply would not go away. They used a 14-0 run to cut Iowa's lead to 9 points (71-62) with 12 minutes to play and from there the teams kept trading buckets for much of the remainder of the game.
Northwestern kept making 3s -- five in the final five minutes, including 3 (!!) in the final minute alone -- while Iowa was getting layups or making free throws, which helped Northwestern edge ever closer. As nerve-racking as the final few minutes were, though, Northwestern never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead. Credit Iowa's free throw shooting (17/20 for the game and a perfect 8/8 in the final four minutes) and some well-run offensive plays (Iowa repeatedly launched the ball over Northwestern's press and got easy buckets at the other end) for that. Free throw shooting has been an occasional bugaboo for this team -- in Big Ten play they're shooting just 70% from the stripe, 11th best in the league -- so it was nice to see them make big free throws in this game.
Dixon was the star of the show for Iowa with 29 points (Northwestern's Nia Coffey had a game-best 35 points on 12/19 shooting), but she was far from the only Iowa player to shine last night. Bethany Doolittle was a force in the paint, dropping 26 points on 9/15 shooting, while Ally Disterhoft added 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Samantha Logic had just 4 points, but she made up for that with 12 of Iowa's 32 assists. Iowa's fifth starter, Whitney Jennings, added 16 points. And here's one more head-spinning stat for you: despite scoring a whopping 102 points, Iowa's bench scored all of... 5 points (all from Kali Peschel).
With the win, Iowa improves to 8-1, a game behind Maryland for the top spot in the Big Ten. As luck would have it, the Terps are Iowa's next opponent, hosting the Hawkeyes in a top of the standings clash on Sunday (3 PM CT, ESPN2). That game will be an immense challenge for Iowa -- the Terps are ranked #5 in the nation, boast the Big Ten's best scoring offense AND scoring defense, lead the league in rebounding (and outrebound opponents by a freakish margin of 14.3 rebounds per game), and are holding teams to a league-low 24% from behind the arc in Big Ten play. Iowa will definitely have their hands full trying to run their winning streak to 7 games in a row. But, hell, the way they're playing right now, it would be foolish to count them out.