Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Iowa knew it couldn't rely on previous game plans even as it faced a familiar foe on Thursday.
With last week's hottest shooter shut down, the Hawkeyes successfully shifted gears to claim their second win over Northwestern in four days in a 60-55 Big Ten women's basketball tourney decision at the Sears Centre.
"It was extremely difficult," said Hawkeye center Morgan Johnson. "We couldn't just keep the same things and we also had to be mentally prepared to get up for a team two times in a row.
"We had to come in with all our focus."
Johnson and Jaime Printy each collected 18 points, Bethany Doolittle had 10 and Samantha Logic added 11 rebounds as seventh-seeded Iowa ran its winning streak to three.
The Hawkeyes (20-11) face No. 2 seed Nebraska (22-7) at 11:30 a.m. Friday in a second round tournament clash.
Kendall Hackney scored 13 points, Dannielle Diamant had 11 and Alex Cohen added 10 for the 10th seeded Wildcats, who dropped four of their final five games and closed at 13-17 overall.
Northwestern and Iowa met just four days ago in Evanston, Ill. -- a 62-45 Iowa victory behind Melissa Dixon's 21 points in a regular season finale.
Dixon had five 3 pointers last Sunday but managed just three unsuccessful shots in 28 minutes on Thursday.
"On Sunday Dixon got hot and we really focused on stopping her and we did," Hackney said. "But we let the post play kind of fuel their team today."
Iowa jumped to an early lead behind six points from Printy and never trailed in a low-scoring and sometimes sluggish first half.
It wasn't until the final seven minutes when the Hawkeyes finally picked up the pace.
Iowa used a 10-2 run over a span of two minutes, 54 seconds to open a 28-17 lead by the 3:17 mark. Northwestern responded with six straight in the final 2:10 to trim the deficit to 30-26.
The versatile Johnson had a game-high 10 first half points for Iowa.
"We did a good job calling plays were I wasn't always on the blocker or always in the short corner," she said. "Just continuing with motion helped to open me up and my teammates did a great job just finding me and getting open shots."
The Hawkeyes kept the Wildcats at arm's length throughout the second half. And when Northwestern crept to within four points after Diamant's two free throws, Printy replied with a a 3-pointer for a 41-34 lead with 12:46 showing.
Johnson's short jumper with 6:03 remaining gave Iowa its biggest lead to that point at 53-40. Northwestern briefly crept back to within five points in the final seconds.
"I thought we did another good job defensively," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "I think we've played several good defensive games in a row, we got to the free throw line (18 for 23) and that was good (and) I thought Sam (Logic) and Morgan (Johnson) did a great job for us on the boards."
Nebraska may arguably have an edge entering Friday's neutral-court game with two wins over Iowa this season. The Cornhuskers escaped Iowa City with a 76-75 triumph on Feb. 11 and then rolled to a 66-46 decision six days later at home.
NOTES: The Hawkeyes are now 17-16 all-time in Big Ten tournament play while Bluder is 11-11 all time. She's just one of three coaches with a .500 or better record in 20 or more tourney appearances ... Johnson tied for an Iowa record for most games played (127). She also landed second team all-Big Ten honors in a team picked by conference coaches while Melissa Dixon was named Sixth Player of the Year. Johnson was ninth in conference scoring (14.9 points) while Dixon averaged 10 .3 points and appeared in all 30 games ... Hawkeye teammates Logic and Printy were honorable mention ... Northwestern's forward Maggie Lyon was named conference freshman of the year after averaging 12.8 points and 1.5 steals per game. She was held to seven points Thursday ... Penn State, the tourney's top seed and two-time regular season conference champ, is the highest-ranked Big Ten women's team in this week's polls. The Lady Lions are eighth in the latest Associated Press and USA Today national rankings and have never been lower than 11th at any point this season ... No Hawkeye players hail from the Chicago area but it's a homecoming for 14 other Big Ten players -- including a collective nine from Northwestern and Illinois -- as the four-day tourney kicked off at the northwest suburban arena.