Iowa's 69-61 win over Nebraska on Thursday night was a far more confounding game than the score might otherwise suggest. Nebraska turned the ball over 22 (!) times, yet the Huskers held a lead for the majority of the game (and at times a fairly substantial lead -- 9 points) and were within a point of the Hawkeyes in the final minute. So how'd they manage that? Well, rebounding played a key factor in their success -- Nebraska had an enormous 46-28 advantage in rebounds, which includes a stunning 13-4 edge in offensive rebounds. The extra bites at the apple Nebraska generated from those offensive rebounds helped offset all the possessions that ended with Nebraska turning the ball over to Iowa.
Another key factor in Nebraska's early success? Red-hot shooting. Nebraska shot 55.2% in the first half (16/29), which helped pace them to a 37-28 halftime lead. Their shooting fell off a cliff in the second half, though: they made just 26.7% (8/30) of their shots in the second half. As Nebraska's shooting went into the deep freeze, Iowa's own shooting heated up. After making just 38.7% of their field goals in the first half, Iowa drained a sizzling 48.3% (14/29) of their attempts in the second half, including 55.6% (5/9) of their three-point efforts. Shooting like that will win you plenty of games.
Iowa's surge to the lead began after Nebraska opened up a 42-33 lead with around 16 minutes to go. With the Huskers threatening to break the game open, Iowa responded with a quick 7-0 lead to cut Nebraska's lead down to 42-40 with 15 minutes to play. It took Iowa several more minutes to finally get the lead (49-48, with 8 minutes to go), but that run got Iowa back into the game and kept them within striking distance.
Ally Disterhoft led Iowa with 14 points (on 4/10 shooting), as well as a team-high 7 rebounds. Bethany Doolittle added 12 points (on 6/13 shooting) and 5 rebounds, including several buckets during Iowa's run at the end of the game. Kali Peschel gave Iowa a much-needed boost off the bench, with 13 points. Melissa Dixon had just 9 points on (3/5 shooting from deep), but all of her 3-pointers were big. Her first came immediately after Nebraska opened up a 10-point lead, their biggest of the game, at 33-23 in the first half. Her second three gave Iowa a 57-56 lead with just over four minutes to go in the game -- a lead they would not relinquish. Her third three came with Iowa holding onto a slim 62-61 with less than a minute to go; Dixon gave Iowa a 4-point lead and gave Iowa some much-needed breathing room. Finally, Samantha Logic followed up her 30-point effort against Wisconsin on Sunday with just 9 points against Nebraska (on lousy 3/13 shooting), but as usual she found other ways to fill the stat sheet: 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.
The win gives Iowa a season sweep over Nebraska -- a tremendous accomplishment for the Hawkeyes, especially after they had lost their first 8 games against Nebraska since the Huskers had joined the Big Ten. Iowa improves to 20-4 overall this season and 11-2 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are firmly entrenched in 2nd place in the league (behind Maryland, 13-0 in league play); Rutgers and Ohio State are tied for 3rd place with 9-4 records in the Big Ten, but Iowa also has a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over both teams.
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The NCAA Women's Tournament selection committee did something a little interesting earlier this week: they took a page out of college football's Playoff Selection Committee playbook and gave a snapshot of where things stand at the moment for several teams. They didn't release their own Top 25, but they did reveal who the four #1 seeds would be right now:
They also revealed who they considered the top 20 teams in the country right now (in alphabetical order):
It should come as no surprise that Iowa (ranked #13 in the Coaches Poll and #14 in the AP Poll) is in that second group of teams. ESPN's latest mock bracket has Iowa as a #3 seed (same as they were in the previous mock bracket), while ESPN's bracketologist for the women's game, Charlie Creme, has Iowa in 9th on his projected S-curve. That's a rock-solid #3 seed and pushing for a #2 seed. Earning a #2 seed still seems like a tall order for Iowa -- they might need to virtually win out (including the Big Ten Tournament), but they still seem poised to get one of their best seeds in years.
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NEXT: This game was the start of one of Iowa's busiest stretches of the season -- they head home for a game with Indiana (14-10 overall, 4-9 B1G) on Sunday (5 PM CT, BTN Plus), then turn around and head to Minneapolis for a game with Minnesota (19-6 overall, 8-5 B1G) on Tuesday (8 PM CT, BTN).