The Hawkeyes came into Friday’s game a heavy favorite and wasted no time in showing exactly why en route to a 75-67 victory. In the opening minutes, Iowa started the scoring with a corner 3 by Melissa Dixon, followed by an Ally Disterhoft and-one, and two driving lay-ups by Sam Logic.
It seemed Iowa got whatever it wanted offensively, but as has been the case throughout the season, the defense was another story.
Iowa’s defenders were right in the space of American’s drivers, but a couple of tough makes by the 14-seeded Eagles put them in position to take a 12-10 lead on a 3-pointer. The Eagles extended their lead to 14-10.
Iowa went 2-of-9 for a stretch near the 10-minute mark, which was especially poorly timed given that American began the game 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Arron Zimmerman and Ari Booth combined to start 4-of-4 and had the Eagles leading, 20-15.
“We knew that American was going to be a really good team, and they have a lot of great players,” Dixon said. “But shooting is something that’s a strong point for us every game.”
As concern began to arise in Carver-Hawkeye Arena with American leading, 24-19, Disterhoft and Dixon connected on a timely pair of back-to-back 3s to get the crowd back into the game. A moment later Dixon drained another to reclaim a 30-28 lead for the Hawkeyes.
It remained a shootout throughout the half, and at the break, the teams were shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc and were knotted at 36. Maybe the Hawkeyes realized they were being beaten at their own game, because they turned it up another notch coming out of the locker room.
Dixon quickly made two more triples, Disterhoft made another, Logic made a driving lay-up, and Bethany Doolittle even made a jumper only a foot or two inside the arc. Iowa suddenly led 51-42 and had its home crowd going berserk.
As well as both teams shot in the first half, the story of the second was that one team kept it up. Iowa began the half shooting 5-of-6 from distance, while American’s percentage plummeted; it started 2-of-8.
Booth went 4-of-5 from distance in the first half but went 1-of-5 in the second. Zimmerman started 2-of-3 and finished the game 5-of-9. In other words, the Eagles shot outside of themselves in the first half.
“Shooting-wise I would not have been guarding me at the three point line either,” Zimmerman said. “I had not been shooting well. But I hit fire.”
The Eagles were not nearly as hot from the field second half, shooting only 35 percent from distance and 39 percent from the floor. Iowa, on the other hand, was 51 percent from the floor and made 5-of-7 3s in the second, allowing it to build up a 10-point cushion for much of the half.
American made it interesting down the home stretch, — going on a 7-0 run, which ended inside of the final minute — but missed the desperation 3 it needed to draw within 4 with 30 seconds remaining, and subsequently sent Logic to the free-throw line.
It was no cupcake game, but the crowd rose to its feet and applauded Iowa’s 75-67 victory before the buzzer sounded.
“I don’t think anything they did really surprised us, but they probably hit a couple more 3s than we thought,” Logic said. “But credit to them, they’re a good shooting team, but we gutted it out. We’re going to take everybody’s best shot in this tournament, and we’ll take any kind of win right now.”