Six minutes into Friday’s season opener, the Iowa women’s basketball team looked a little rusty, and were tied 6-6 with Northern Illinois.
Then the floodgates opened.
The Hawkeyes scored 28 of the half’s final 35 points, providing a key difference in a 63-40 victory Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa shot 80% from 3-point range in the first half, drilling four of their five attempts. Leading the charge in the first half was sophomore guard Melissa Dixon, who hit all three of her shots, including two threes, for eight points.
Adding seven was senior Jaime Printy, who did not start and was wearing a leg brace as she continues her recovery from an ACL injury last season. Printy hit all three of her shots as well, as the Hawkeyes built up a 34-13 lead entering the intermission.
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder pointed to the return of Printy as a spark for the Hawkeyes.
“When she made that first three, I was really excited, but I was even more excited when I saw her take the ball to the hole,” Bluder said. “I’ve got my Jaime Printy back.”
Printy said the rush of taking the court once again was an incredible experience.
“It’s such a great feeling, I can’t even describe it,” Printy said. “It’s so fun to be out there with my teammates and to play in front of our fans. I just couldn’t stop smiling.
The Hawkeye run was stymied in the second half, but the damage had been done for Iowa. The lead never got smaller than 16 points in the second half, as the Hawkeyes outscored the Huskies 29-27. Leading the Hawkeyes in the second half was Kathy Thomas, who scored six points in the frame. Morgan Johnson added five points in the victory.
Iowa’s defense also provided a good season-opening performance, forcing the Huskies into 22 turnovers. Leading the charge on defense was Bethany Doolittle, who blocked a career-high six shots. Claire Till also added six rebounds for Iowa.
Bluder said she was especially pleased with the team’s defensive effort given that it was the first game of the season.
“Any time you open up and only have ten turnovers, you play some pretty good defense, and hold them to 29 percent shooting and 40 points, I’m happy with that,” Bluder said.
Bluder, though, also said she was disappointed in the Hawkeyes’ performance on the glass, where NIU outrebounded the Hawkeyes 44-34. Bluder added that while Johnson and Doolittle had below average games, the team’s depth is able to cover for it.
“The rebounding really bothered me, because that’s one of the first statistics I look at,” Bluder said. “I’m such a believer in owning the boards, and that’s the one disappointing thing is that we got outrebounded by ten and didn’t crash the boards well.”
“Morgan and Bethany didn’t have good games,” Bluder continued, “but isn’t it nice to know that we have different weapons that we can go to, because we know what they (Johnson and Doolittle) are capable of doing?”
The Hawkeyes return to action on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena against either Illinois State or Morehead State.