EVANSTON, Ill. - Iowa sophomore guard Melissa Dixon has been doing it all season long. She provides a big spark off the bench when the rest of the Hawkeyes are struggling to score.
Dixon buried five more 3-pointers on Sunday and finished with a game-high 21 points to lead the Hawkeyes to a key road win over Northwestern.
Iowa went on a 12-2 run at the end of the first half, continued the momentum in the second half and downed the Wildcats, 62-45, at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
"She was outstanding again," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of Dixon's effort. "When we need an offensive spark, we look to Melissa because she gets these huge runs of 3-pointers some times and that just gets us going."
Senior Morgan Johnson added 16 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore Bethany Doolittle scored all of her 10 points in the second half and the Hawkeyes are likely now a lock for the NCAA tournament after improving to 19-11 overall and 8-8 in Big Ten Conference play.
"We had a lot of pressure coming into this game, and I feel like this win put us into the tourney," Bluder said. "But we want to keep it going and go get them again when we play them Thursday."
The victory gave Iowa the seventh seed in the upcoming Big Ten Women's Tournament, which begins Thursday in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The Hawkeyes and Wildcats will meet again in the 7-10 matchup, kicking off the entire weekend with an 11:30 a.m. start.
The game was tied at 9 with 11:34 to play in the first half and then a Dixon 3 tied it at 19 with 4:21 to play. The sophomore sharpshooter as not done though as she triggered the late first-half run with eight more points and put in 11 in the final 4:21. That gave Iowa a 31-22 advantage at intermission.
The Hawkeyes continued their momentum in the second half. Johnson scored three straight points to push the lead to double digits and then a Doolittle jumper made it 41-28 with 10:52 to play.
Senior Jaime Printy had an off night, making just 2 of her 11 shot attempts. Her first bucket of the game came with 1:51 to go and then a 3-pointer gave the Hawkeyes their biggest lead of the game at 19 points with 1:14 on the clock.
Iowa (19-11, 8-8) held a 26-14 advantage in points in the paint, a 12-0 difference in fastbreak points and Dixon's 21 allowed the Hawkeyes to win the bench point battle, 21-7.
Northwestern (13-16, 5-13) got 15 points and 10 rebounds from Karly Roser. Maggie Lyon was the only other Wildcat in double-figures as she finished with 10 points and five boards. Northwestern shot just 29 percent from the floor and was 11-of-19 from the foul line.
Sophomore Sam Logic took just five shots but finished with seven points, seven assists and six boards. The seven assists set the single season assist record at Iowa. Logic now has 198 assists this year. Cara Consuegra set the previous record of 191 in 2000-01.
"I have so much confidence with the ball in Sam's hands," Bluder said. "To break a record at Iowa is remarkable and she is just a sophomore. She played with great composure today."
Printy also became the fifth Hawkeye to have more than 400 assists in her career. She delivered five helpers Sunday and now has 404 assists in her career. Johnson moved into fifth place on the Big Ten career blocks list. She currently has 283 career blocks.
The winner of the Iowa-Northwestern game Thursday morning will play second-seeded Nebraska in the first game Friday. The Hawkeyes have not beaten the Cornhuskers since they joined the Big Ten Conference last season.