Fearless freshman gives boost to Bluder's starting lineup


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Iowa freshman guard Melissa Dixon wasn't sure she'd see the court this year when she committed to play basketball under head coach Lisa Bluder.

Now, she's starting as the Hawkeyes (14-10, 6-5 Big Ten) enter the homestretch of the season.

It hasn't been an easy road. She wasn't offered a scholarship at first. Once she had one, she tore her meniscus and missed a month of the season.

And then, of course, there's the reason she's starting in the first place: The Hawkeyes are without leading scorer Jaime Printy, who tore her ACL in the final minute of a 85-79 overtime victory over Wisconsin on Feb. 2.

It was the team's first road win in conference play, but freshman guard Sam Logic said the bus ride home was somber because it cost Iowa's best player her season.

Bluder replaced Printy with Dixon, despite the freshman's lack of experience; her first start came in her third career Big Ten game.

Dixon had a breakout performance. She scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting as the team won, 83-64.

"I'd been out [injured] for a month, and I don't think they knew who I was," Dixon said and laughed. "I think I'll have more pressure on me now."

She didn't have a scholarship offer when she first visited Iowa, and she planned on being part of the team as a gray-shirt practice player. But things changed when Marion native Kiah Stokes spurned the Hawkeyes for Connecticut during recruiting, opening up a scholarship spot.

Logic, who had played AAU ball with Dixon in high school, had committed to the Hawkeyes a few weeks before Dixon did.

"I got a text that said, 'Guess who's going to spend the next four years with you?' " Logic said. "I was really pumped; I loved playing with her in AAU, and now [I was] getting another chance to play together for four more years."

Bluder saw Dixon had the potential to be special when she saw how unfazed her young player seemed to be by the college game.

"The kid came in, and she was willing to put the ball up without hesitation," Bluder said. "I knew from watching her play that she was going to be a shooter; she had that mentality."

Dixon will remain in the starting lineup alongside fellow guards Logic and senior Kamille Wahlin as the team continues to make an NCAA Tournament push over its final five games.

While several Hawkeyes acknowledged no player can replace Printy or her 16.9 points per game, each player will do her part to shoulder the scoring load. The addition of Dixon in the starting lineup gives the Hawkeyes a capable long-range shooter and lock-down defender.

Logic and junior center Morgan Johnson both talked to Dixon before to the Indiana game and tried to calm her nerves.

They told her not to overthink anything and to let the game come to her.

Dixon set career highs in points (19), 3-pointers made (5), field goals (7), steals (3), and minutes played (28). Now, the Johnsburg, Ill., native says she has the confidence to give the Hawkeyes an edge in their remaining games.

"The kid is fearless; she absolutely plays without fear," Bluder said. "She can miss three shots in a row and not hesitate to take the next one. She's a competitor."

Follow DI women's basketball reporter Ben Wolfson on Twitter.

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