The Iowa Hawkeyes made four of their first five three point attempts and kept up the hot shooting through the game, cracking triple digits on the way to a 102-99 win over Northwestern Thursday.
Despite a career high for Nia Coffey with 35 points and a late, urgent push by the Wildcats, NU couldn't crawl all the way back from a 24-point deficit. The Wildcats fell just short of what would have been an important win for a suddenly reeling team that started conference play 3-1 but has lost four of its last five and now sits at 4-5, eighth in the Big Ten.
"It was a crazy game," Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. "I don't ever remember giving up 100 points in 30-something years and I've coached a lot of great games. The first 20 minutes [Dixon] went 7-8 from the three-point line so that can't happen and if we aspire to be a great team, which we do, we're sitting here 14-6 and in the hunt, we can't have those kinds of breakdowns."
Iowa jumped out to a lead early on the back of its phenomenal three-point shooting, making six of its first seven, and ended the half 14-19 from deep. The Hawkeyes went up 23-15 after a three-pointer from Kali Peschel, but then Coffey started to feel it and took over. She scored five straight for Northwestern to cut the lead to three, before the teams traded baskets, making it 25-22 Iowa with 10 minutes to play before halftime. Coffey decided to take matters into her own hands again, this time scoring eight straight for the Wildcats and giving them their only lead of the game, 30-29, with 8:20 left in the half. Unfortunately, she had to come out due to foul trouble and sat the final five minutes of the half.
Her foul trouble didn't stop her from pouring it in on the offensive end, but she admits it did limit her on the defensive side of the ball. "I just had to be extra careful," she said. "We played some different defensive schemes to take off some of the pressure and I just really had to play with caution. But I still try to keep the mentality of attacking."
The game slowed down a little before halftime, getting sloppy with both teams committing more fouls and turnovers. Northwestern's offense stagnated when Coffey went to the bench, and the Wildcats didn't make a field goal for the final 4:57 of the half.
Iowa's hot shooting continued at the start of the second half, making their first four three pointers and opening up a 23-point lead, 71-48. But by that time, Ashely Deary had had enough.
"I think a lot of it was just pride," the second-year guard from Texas said. "We changed our defense up a little bit to throw some things at them and threw them off for a little bit. We know they're going to hit some shots but at the same time we have to do a better job of covering them."
Deary finished with 22 points and six assists and helped spark a 14-0 run with her pestering defense and contagious energy. The run brought the Hawkeyes lead down to single digits and it was 71-62 with 12:00 left to play. While both teams had been hitting shots all game, no one expected it the last 12 minutes to turn into the frantic, uptempo game that it did that ended with the teams combining to score over 200 points and setting the NCAA record for made three pointers in a game with 32. They did it on only 46 attempts too, while the old record was 31 makes on 75 attempts in an Ole Miss-Bowling Green game on November 26, 1999.
The final five minutes were particularly frantic, with both teams trading basket after basket and everyone in the arena could feel the tension growing. The Hawkeyes had ice in their veins from the free throw line though and despite the Wildcats desperate push and high energy, they couldn't quite get the victory. Usually, 99 points is enough to assure a victory, but tonight, against the hot shooting Hawkeyes, it wasn't enough.
"I love how we came back," McKeown said. "We were down 18 at one point and we got it down to four. We had a couple of chances where we even had the ball, down four, but we just couldn't capitalize. But we were exhausted too because to make that kind of run takes tremendous energy. But you have to play better defense."