A loss to the Big Ten’s worst team would have been crippling for the Iowa women’s basketball team on Thursday night.
Trailing by 18 points with 6 minutes to play in the opening half, the Hawkeyes rallied for their 18th win of the season.
Sophomore Melissa Dixon kept Iowa within striking distance in the first half and then Morgan Johnson and Jaime Printy both turned it on in the second half as the Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers, 75-70, on Senior NIght at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It was obviously an important win for us,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I am happy for our seniors that went out victorious. We kept fighting, kept working hard and kept believing. We did not panic.”
The Hawkeyes began the season 16-5 and were ranked at one point this season. Since that start, Iowa has gone 2-6 and was in jeopardy of clinching its sixth straight NCAA Tournament berth despite seven wins over top 25 foes.
Iowa will take an 18-11 record into the regular season finale against Northwestern on Sunday. The Hawkeyes may still need a couple of wins to guarantee themselves a spot in the field of 64.
“It felt great to win again, and we want to do it again on Sunday,” Bluder said. “That is our main focus right now. This is just a really good win for us and we are pretty happy.”
Dixon scored 14 of her team-high 22 points in the first half to keep Iowa within reach. The Hawkeyes trailed by as many as 18 and were down 10 at the break to an Indiana team that has just two Big Ten wins.
Johnson and Printy each scored 11 points in the second half to push the Hawkeyes past the Hoosiers. Iowa took its first lead at 62-60 following a Dixon layup with 5:20 to play in the game.
A Printy trey made it 65-62 with 3:19 to go and a 7-0 run after that gave the Hawkeyes the lead for good with 1:20 to go. Johnson scored four of those seven points.
“I am really proud of us for coming up big in crunch time,” Bluder said. “We felt good when it we went up seven but it obviously came down to the wire. We managed the clock well down the stretch, too.”
Johnson finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Printy added 14 points and six assists. Theairra Taylor was a fourth Hawkeye in double-figures with 11.
Sophomore Samantha Logic finished with eight assists and moved into a tie with Cara Consuegra for the single-season assist record at Iowa with 191.
“I am really happy for Sam to tie that record,” Bluder said. “I coached Cara that year. She was a great point guard. That’s a great great accomplishment for Sam.”
The Hoosiers stayed close throughout the game because of two players. Aulani Sinclair had eight points better than her average at halftime and finished with a game-high 31, while Jasmine McGhee also had a big first half on her way to 16 points for the game.
Sinclair was 7-for-11 from distance and also had five rebounds. The Hoosiers hit 13 3-pointers in the game.
All 22 of Iowa’s bench points were scored by Dixon. She was 5-for-13 from long range. Only five players scored for Indiana as the Hoosiers had no bench points.
“You’d have to be silly not to vote her as the Sixth Player of the Year in our conference,” Bluder said of Dixon. “To me, it’s a lock. But even if she doesn’t get it, we know she is and we know she is deserving.”
Iowa got back into the game in the final half with pressure defense. The Hawkeyes scored 27 points off 21 Indiana turnovers while only turning it over 10 times themselves in the win. That helped make up for the 34-30 disadvantage on the boards and the disadvantage behind the 3-point line.
The Hawkeyes will have one more regular season game before the Big Ten Conference Tournament. Iowa will travel to Northwestern on Sunday with tip-off set for 2 p.m.
Iowa lost to the Wildcats on a wild buzzer-beater in Iowa City earlier this season during the second game of a five-game losing streak.
“We felt like we needed two wins this week and you don’t get the second one without the first one,” Bluder said. “It’s enormous getting this win before going into Northwestern.”