IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The third-seeded University of Iowa women's basketball team grinded out a 75-67 over 14th-seeded American the way it has all season... with balance.
"I was proud of our team's effort," said UI head coach Lisa Bluder. "(We had) five players in double figures, I love that. We shot the ball well, especially from 3-point range and from the free throw line.
"I want to thank the crowd that came out today, they were instrumental. You get down to crunch time and you have a great crowd behind you, we used the home-court advantage today, and that was nice to see."
All five Hawkeye starters reached double figures, and Iowa used a 54.2 percent second half field goal percentage to outscore the Eagles, 39-31, to advance to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. Iowa will meet 11th-seeded Miami (Florida) on Sunday at 11 a.m. (CT) for a right to advance to the Sweet 16.
"We gutted it out," said senior guard Samantha Logic. "We are going to take everyone's best shot in this tournament, so we are going to take any kind of win right now."
After playing to a 36-all tie in the first half, the Hawkeyes went to their 3-point ace -- senior Melissa Dixon -- early in the second half and it provided the team a spark. Dixon connected on three 3-pointers during a 15-6 run over the first 5:20 of the second half to give the Hawkeyes a 51-42 advantage.
"That is a great momentum for us when we can get those 3s going," said Bluder. "That was a big deal for us."
American didn't rattle and played like a team riding an 11-game winning streak. The Eagles used back-to-back 3-pointers from Arron Zimmerman and Jordan Light to pull to within 53-48 at the 11:27 mark, and they closed the margin to 55-50 with 10:37 to play.
But before American could blink, the Hawkeyes reeled off five-straight points in a 38 second stretch on a Logic layup and an Ally Disterhoft 3-pointer to push the lead to 60-50 with 9:59 remaining. Iowa stretched its advantage to a game-high 13 (67-54) on a Whitney Jennings 3-pointer, but the Eagles kept coming.
American cut the deficit to 10 on an Ari Booth 3-pointer at the 5:36 mark and closed the gap to five with 2:47 left on back-to-back 3-pointers from Zimmerman. The Eagles had two possessions to cut into the lead, but came away empty, and Iowa made all six of its free throws in the final 39 seconds to run out eight-point winners.
Disterhoft led the Hawkeyes with 18 points, while Jennings scored 16, making 4-of-5 field goals and all six free throw attempts. Dixon made four 3-pointers en route to 15 points, Logic flirted with a postseason triple-double, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, and senior Bethany Doolittle added 10 points and six rebounds.
The Hawkeyes shot 49 percent from the field, 56.3 percent from 3-point range, and 88.9 percent from the foul stripe. American finished with a 43.6 percent field goal percentage, made 12 3-pointers (42.9 percent), and 7-of-8 free throws. The Eagles out-rebounded Iowa, 32-26, but committed 14 turnovers.
"If you told me we were going to shoot (as well as we did) and lose, I would have been shocked," said American head coach Megan Gebbia. "Iowa is a terrific team, and they shot better than we did."
American guard Jen Dumiak led all scorers with 23 points, making 8-of-13 field goals, and had nine assists in 40 minutes. Zimmerman and Booth both scored 17 points, but only three of Booth's points came in the second half.
The game was deadlocked at 36 following an entertaining first half that featured three ties and five lead changes. Iowa jumped out to a 6-0 lead and led 8-2 over the first three minutes before the Hawkeyes endured a 3 1/2 minute drought and American capitalized.
The Eagles made two 3-pointers during a 12-2 run, the second coming from Booth to give American its first lead at 12-10. The 3-pointer at the 13:31 mark began a stretch where Booth scored 11-straight Eagle points to build a 20-15 lead with 10:17 left in the half.
After trading four field goals over a 50-second stretch, Disterhoft drained a 3-pointer at the 8:15 mark to cut the lead to 24-22, and Iowa fought back to take a 30-28 lead on a Dixon 3-pointer with 6:01 left. American made its fifth and sixth 3-pointer of the first half to take a 34-30 lead with 3:25 remaining before Doolittle made back-to-back field goals -- her first of the game -- to tie the game at 34 and the half ended in a 36-all tie.
The Hawkeyes (25-7) will square off against the Hurricanes on Sunday on Mediacom Court at 11 a.m. Tickets are available by contacting the UI Ticket Office (800-IA-HAWKS) or visiting http://www.hawkeyesports.com.
"We know we're going to have our work cut out for us Sunday," said Bluder. "Hopefully our home court is going to help us out a little bit."