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Dixon sniping Hawkeyes to Big Ten contention

BY KYLE MANN | JANUARY 28, 2015 5:00 AM

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Entering the 2014-15 campaign, the Iowa women’s basketball team knew it had a perfect storm brewing.

There was Sam Logic, the do-it-all All-American point guard. Ally Disterhoft was coming off as impressive of a freshman season as Hawkeye fans have seen in recent memory. Bethany Doolittle was a record-setting shot blocker and leading scorer. And there was Melissa Dixon, certified sniper.

Before even settling on a fifth starter, it appeared that the Hawkeyes, particularly on offense, had all filled the roles filled requisite for a successful unit. Logic would pass, Disterhoft would be the glue player in the middle, Dixon would shoot, and Doolittle would score down low.

And then Dixon became the most lethal 3-point shooter in the country. As well-positioned as the team was expected to be, Dixon is having a season for the ages that has the high-flying Iowa offense functioning more dangerously than observers had anticipated.

Dixon has never taken much of a role as a ball-handler, but she is active moving off the ball for either a back cut to the hoop or more frequently, an open look from distance. Thus far, Dixon has literally maxed out in terms of production from a spot-up shooter.

“I’m just embracing my role,” she said. “I’m doing what I know I can do and just playing hard.”

The guard’s confidence in her shot would have been justified before this season — her 97 3s in 2013-14 was an Iowa single-season record — and she was top-five all-time entering her senior season. Now, however, she’ll be remembered as one of the most skilled shooters to ever don the black and gold.

“I think she has the quickest shot I’ve coached,” Hawkeye coach Lisa Bluder said earlier this season.

Dixon made quick work of capturing the Iowa career 3-point record, now sitting at 280 with a half season to go. She ranks second nationally with 3.68 made 3s per game, as well as ninth with a clip of 45.2-percent.

For comparison, the only player to make more 3s per game — Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell — is shooting 38.5-percent.

Roughly a week ago, Dixon did rank in front of Mitchell, but two less-than-spectacular games against Nebraska and Michigan have her numbers trending downward, if only briefly. With Dixon’s impact somewhat reduced, however, it becomes more glaring the amount of attention she receives from a defense.

“Everybody is so concerned about Dixon and the 3s,” Logic said. “So there are going to be a lot of driving lanes open.”

Dixon’s reputation throughout her career, paired with her ascension to nationally elite status, now mandates that the opposition keep her marked, even if she’s not hitting. As a result, the defense is more spaced and players such as Logic, Doolittle, and Disterhoft have little resistance when operating in the paint.

Dixon is leading Iowa, which is shooting 38 percent from distance, good for eighth in the country. The spacing created from that attack has the Hawks ranked 17th at 45 percent from the floor. The Hawkeyes score 78 points per game, 14th in the country.

Dixon has the offense clicking better than even the Hawkeyes could have imagined, and they are alone in second place in the Big Ten as a result. As Dixon and the offense goes, so will the Hawks.


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