HOFFMAN ESTATES, ILL. — Bring on Big Red.
The Iowa women’s basketball team got its 20th win of the season by topping Northwestern 60-55 Thursday in the first round of the 2013 Big Ten Tournament.
Seventh-seed Iowa (20-11) advances to face second-seed Nebraska (22-7) at 11:30 a.m. today in the Sears Centre. The Hawkeyes haven’t beaten the Huskers since they joined the Big Ten last season (0-5).
“In my career, I’ve never gotten to beat Nebraska,” Iowa senior Morgan Johnson said. “That’s a little unsettling for me. We’re geared up for that game.”
Nebraska beat Iowa 76-75 on Feb. 11 in Iowa City and 66-46 on Feb. 24 in Lincoln, Neb. And going back to last March, Nebraska was the team that knocked out Iowa of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament.
“You’re not a good competitor if it doesn’t get under your skin a little bit,” sophomore Sam Logic said. “We’ll go out and have fun. It’ll be a good one.”
First things first, the Hawkeyes had to take care of Northwestern (13-17), a team they had beaten four days earlier 62-45 in Evanston, Ill.
“We liked the outcome of that game,” junior Theairra Taylor said. “But we knew they were going to adjust.”
Iowa continued its trend of hammering the Wildcats with defense early on Thursday.
“We just know we’re better as a team when our defense is setting the tone,” Iowa sophomore Samantha Logic said. “We had a lot of good weak-side help; we got steals and our transition game going a little bit.”
Iowa never trailed, leading by 11 points before the Wildcats eventually closed the first half on a 7-0 run.
Iowa led 30-26 at half.
“We really stressed in our huddle we wanted to get the hustle plays,” Printy said. “But I think we also did a good job staying composed at the same time.”
The Hawkeyes finally created some separation with the Wildcats when senior Jaime Printy hit a 3-pointer, Logic drew a charge on one end and converted in the lane on the other, and Taylor hit both ends of a 1-and-1.
That made it 45-34 with less than 10 minutes left in the game.
Taylor’s foul shots were the first in the bonus, a status Iowa enjoyed in the second half.
Iowa ended up 15-of-20 at the foul line in the final 20 minutes.
“We’re a good free-throw shooting team,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “We saw we were in the bonus early. We wanted to spread it out and have the opportunity to drive a little more.”
Printy was 8-of-9 at the line and finished with 18 points for Iowa. Johnson also had 18 points to go with nine rebounds and four steals.
Bethany Doolittle had 10 points, Taylor had eight points and a career-high five blocked shots. Logic had six points, six assists and 11 rebounds.
“We just came out and made a really big effort defensively,” Taylor said. “That’s what is going to get us to the finals.”
Northwestern didn’t want Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year Melissa Dixon — who had 21 points off the bench Sunday — to hurt them again. She was 0-for-3 shooting.
“We did a great job of shutting her down,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. “And Iowa I think focused on shutting Maggie Lyon down, too.”
Iowa held the Big Ten Freshman of the Year to seven points on 2-of-10 shooting.
Kendall Hackney led Northwestern with 13 points. Dannielle Diamant had eight points and 13 rebounds, Karly Roser had 11 points and six assists, and Alex Cohen had 10 points off the bench for the Wildcats.
Northwestern had one last run in the final minutes, getting a pair of buckets from Cohen and a 3-pointer and two foul shots from Lyon to cut the Iowa lead from 15 to six, 57-51, with 1:03 to play.
But Printy hit a 3-of-4 at the line to seal the win. Northwestern tried to foul someone besides Printy — a 92 percent free-throw shooter — but Iowa kept putting the ball in her hands.
“We are a pretty good free throw shooting team,” Printy said. “So we like to take advantage of that.”
The Hawkeyes didn’t feel Thursday was a must-win for their NCAA Tournament hopes, but getting to 20 wins is always significant. It was the seventh time Iowa has done that in 13 years under Bluder.
“It feels good,” Bluder said. “I feel like this just solidified things. I didn’t feel this was a must-win, but I sure feel a little more comfortable now.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball