In an absolutely absurd game in which the NCAA women’s basketball record for combined three-pointers was shattered, Northwestern (14-6, 4-5) came up just short, 102-99, to the visiting No. 20 Iowa Hawkeyes (17-3, 8-1). The 32 three-pointers between the two teams on just 46 attempts surpassed the previous record of 31 on 75 attempts, set by Bowling Green and Ole Miss in 1999. Yes, you read that correctly: NU and Iowa shot a combined 69.6 percent from behind the arc.
But the way the first 25 minutes went, it seemed like Iowa might break that record mostly on its own. The ‘Cats came back from a 23-point deficit to turn the game into a close slugfest, outscoring the Hawkeyes 58-44 in the second half but falling just short.
“It was a crazy game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “I’m just disappointed in our defense. I loved our fight in the second half and how we came back. It was a great half to watch. They left everything on the floor. The effort was phenomenal.”
Iowa started the game on a 7-of-9 three-point shooting tear, and never slowed down.
Hawkeye senior guard Klay Thompson Melissa Dixon stole the show in the first half, going 7-of-8 from behind the three-point line and accounting for 21 points. But the ‘Cats flipped the script on her in the second half, holding her to just eight more points out of the locker room, even though she finished an unconscious 9-of-10 from behind the arc.
“We just found Dixon [in the second half],” McKeown said. “Somehow we lost her in the first 20 minutes of the game, and then we found her. If we aspire to be a great team, which we do, we can’t have those kind of breakdowns, and wait until halftime to make an adjustment.”
Iowa’s 23-point lead seemed insurmountable, but sophomore guard Ashley Deary decided she’d seen enough, and with aggressive defense and hot shooting, led the ‘Cats on a 14-0 run over five minutes to cut Iowa’s lead to 71-62 with 11:52 left in the game.
And then, as Maurice Sendak said in his classic novel “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Let the wild rumpus start!” Both teams “went Xbox,” hitting basically every shot they took and running the score up into the 80s with under five minutes left. Sophomore forward Nia Coffey emerged and outscored a suddenly quiet Dixon despite being in foul trouble for most of the second half. She finished with 35.
“She made great plays and played with great energy,” McKeown said. “But it was just an awesome performance individually, but she knows she’d rather have our team win then to score X amount of points.”
A three from Deary (she went 5-of-5) with three minutes left cut Iowa’s lead to 90-86, the closest Northwestern had been since midway through the first half. But that was as close as the ‘Cats would come until it was far too late. Coffey cut it to 102-99 with a three with 2.6 seconds left, but Iowa threw a deep inbounds pass to run out the clock on the ‘Cats and secure the crazy victory.
It was another tough loss for the ‘Cats, who have suddenly lost five of seven. But Coffey said it was an encouraging sign of things to come.
"We played as a team today,” she said. “This just gives us a chance to come back to play as Northwestern, as we play. We have plenty of games to come back, we’re a good team.”