IOWA CITY - Even when the Hawkeyes and Cyclones could make shots, it only lasted a few minutes.
In a game where every bucket mattered, Iowa's Melissa Dixon hit the two that mattered most down the stretch.
Dixon hit a pair of key baskets down the stretch as Iowa beat 22nd-ranked Iowa State 50-42 on Thursday night despite blowing a 14-point lead.
Theairra Taylor and Dixon each scored 11 points for the Hawkeyes (7-3), who beat the rival Cyclones (5-1) for the fifth time in six tries at home.
Dixon broke a 39 tie with a 3 with 3:39 left and hit a key layup with 1:26 to go to make it 47-42 Iowa - essentially clinching a game in which neither team shot above 30 percent from the field.
"I was definitely feeling it. "My teammates got me the ball when I was open," Dixon said.
Everyone was open for Iowa early.
Iowa scored the game's first 14 points and seemed set to blow away the Cyclones. But Iowa State tied it at 23 early in the second half and answered a 13-2 run by Iowa with 11 straight points, making it 39-39 with 3:58 left.
Nikki Moody had 12 to lead Iowa State, which played its third consecutive game without senior star Chelsea Poppens. She's still recovering from a concussion and was ruled out Thursday afternoon.
"It's tough to spot a team two touchdowns and win the game," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said.
Iowa spent the first six minutes building a seemingly insurmountable lead - and the next 22 minutes giving it away, bucket by bucket.
The Hawkeyes did it again in the second half.
Iowa turned a 26-26 tie into a 39-28 lead with 7:13 left. But instead of burying the Cyclones, the Hawkeyes let them tie it up again in just over three minutes.
But Dixon was there to bail them out, essentially icing it with a layup through traffic.
"When she hit the 3, that was huge. She comes back with the layup as well. That was big for us," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
Iowa State knew that it couldn't afford to start slow in Iowa City. After all, the sluggish Cyclones were blasted by 22 by Iowa here two years ago - one of 11 losses by road teams in the last 12 meetings between these two.
It took about seven minutes for them to remember that lesson.
By then, they'd already given the Hawkeyes a 14-point head start.
Taylor's 3 and a Jaime Printy layup put Iowa ahead 14-0 against the shell-shocked Cyclones. But Moody broke the stretch of futility with a 3, and from there, it was Iowa State that dictated the pace.
Iowa scored just six points in the final 14 minutes of the half as Iowa State pulled within 20-17.
Moody then tied it with a 3 with 14:54 left - essentially nullifying the madness of the opening 25 minutes.
"Both teams played really, really good defense. We missed too may free throws. We had an opportunity, I think ,to really put this game away," said Bluder, whose team shot 64 percent from the line.
The Hawkeyes will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament next March.
Beating the Cyclones was a big step toward ensuring they'll still be alive then.
Iowa did beat then-No. 12 West Virginia 79-70 on Nov. 25. But the Hawkeyes also lost to North Carolina in Iowa City, 77-64, and at Florida State by 14. But the biggest mark against Iowa so far was a brutal 66-65 loss at home to Florida International.
Still, the Hawkeyes got the Cyclones at home.
In this rivalry, that seems to be about all that matters.
"I was proud of our effort," Fennelly said. "Both teams played, guarded hard, obviously. But the difference was, we couldn't make a shot."
In reality, neither team could. But the Hawkeyes made up for it with a 25-5 edge at the free throw line, making 16 of them.