Dixon shines in Game Time opener

BY CODY GOODWIN | JUNE 20, 2013 5:00 AM

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Randy Larson might be the biggest Melissa Dixon fan in the Game Time League. That’s largely the reason he selected the 5-8 guard first overall in this year’s summer league draft.

The rationale behind Larson’s fandom — Dixon’s supremely accurate 3-point shot, the smile that follows each trey made, in addition to her stout defense —was put on display in the 2013 Game Time League’s opening contest.

“She shoots the first one, and you just see that big smile and think, ‘She’s off and running,’ ” Larson said. “And I think there’s a lesson for shooters in that: You have to shoot it confidently and enjoy it when it goes in.”

Dixon was the court general for her team on Wednesday evening, leading it to a 76-75 victory over Kali Peschel and Company in the North Liberty Community Center. She churned out 41 points — the same total her team had at halftime — on a 15-of-29 shooting performance.

Her play more than pleased those in the stands. The fans crowed with each triple Dixon hit — she sunk 9-of-15 from behind the arch (a few even as Peschel provided a stifling defensive effort) — boosting her confidence.

And as the confidence grew, so, too, did the smile that Larson just loves bragging about.

“She tends to do that a lot,” said Claire Till, a summer league teammate of Dixon’s. “I honestly don’t know when she can put the lid on the 3’s. They’re just always going.”

Till, a sophomore-to-be for the Iowa women’s basketball team, dropped 14 points herself on Wednesday evening. A few of her 6 field goals were made possible by Dixon’s ability to draw in the defense and find open looks for Till.

Plenty of Dixon’s 10 dishes — second on the team to Till’s 11 — came when she dribbled in and around the paint area near the free-throw line. That allowed for seemingly better vision for the Johnsburg, Ill., native, who often bounce-passed to teammate Haley Schneden for attempted points in the paint (Schneden finished with just 4 points; the defensive credit goes to former Iowa center Morgan Johnson, who finished with 26 points of her own).

Even more, Dixon found many of her teammates out on the wings for open 3-point looks. Though the looks were there, just one other player on Dixon’s team made a trey besides her — Tessa Leytem swooshed it home in the second-half.

“She was the Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year last year. That, alone, says a lot,” Till said. “She can do it all. She can get us open. She can drive. She can shoot. Whatever we need her to do, she can do.”

And if the statistics don’t tell enough about her stellar performance, then perhaps a second-half sequence might do it justice.

Dixon stripped the ball from the opposition and took it coast-to-coast for a lay-up with 7:31 left in regulation. But she quickly clutched her left leg in pain afterwards — her calf had cramped up.

Coach Larson quickly subbed her out to stretch her calf. Before long, Dixon was back sitting on the bench, cheering her team on. At the 4:31 mark, Larson sent her back in, where she immediately received a pass on the wing.

Of course, she drained a trey — even with Peschel’s hand right in her line of sight.

“She was face-guarding me a little bit,” Dixon said and laughed. “It’s definitely weird to play against each other, but it was a lot of fun.”

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