Johnsburg grad Melissa Dixon now Iowa’s sharpshooter
MADISON, Wis. – Iowa guard Theairra Taylor drove the right baseline and, from under the basket, kicked a pass to Melissa Dixon at the 3-point line.
Dixon buried the shot, although Taylor was whistled for traveling, which wiped out that 3-pointer and likely produced the answer to the trivia question: When did Dixon not even attempt a 3-pointer in a high school or college game?
“I can’t honestly remember the last time,” said Dixon, a junior guard from Johnsburg who with 164 3s is fifth on the Hawkeyes’ career list.
Between two first-half fouls and tough denial defense from Wisconsin, Dixon, Iowa’s leading scorer at 15.1 points a game, was held to six points Sunday, but it didn’t matter as the Hawkeyes cruised to an 82-65 Big Ten Conference women’s basketball victory at the Kohl Center.
Dixon was 2 for 3 from the field and 2 for 2 at the free-throw line. Her total was her second-lowest of the season behind two points in Iowa’s season opener.
“It would have been more frustrating if we were down the entire game and I felt like I needed to do something to help the team,” Dixon said. “But we were up all the way and at the end we were up 12 or 15 points. I was being denied, but the great thing about our team is there’s so many threats who can score. If they take me away, it helps everyone else out, too.”
That’s the way Iowa (14-4 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) saw it. The attention the two-time Northwest Herald Player of the Year attracted helped open up other options.
“You have to focus so much attention on her. You have to be [at the 3-point line] for the catch, because she’s going to shoot it,” point guard Samantha Logic said. “She has one of the quickest releases you’re ever going to see and if she gets on a streak, you don’t want to be the other team. I wouldn’t have even guessed that she didn’t take a 3. What’s great about that is Melissa won’t care.”
Dixon is hitting 34 percent of her 3-point attempts (51 for 150) for the season. No other Hawkeye has taken more than 58 3s for the season. Dixon is in the NCAA’s top 20 averaging three 3s a game and is hitting 88.9 percent on free throws, putting her in the Big Ten’s top four.
On Sunday, center Bethany Doolittle and forward Ally Disterhoft scored 20 each, while Logic added 16 and Taylor 13 for the Hawkeyes.
“When you’re a shooter and you don’t get your shots, sometimes you can get really nervous,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “In the first half she was limited with fouls. In the second half, Wisconsin did a good job on her and we pride ourselves in balanced scoring. We don’t care who scores as long as we win. That was really evident today because Melissa didn’t get itchy when she wasn’t getting her baskets.”
Dixon, a 5-foot-8 guard, has played an integral role since her freshman season with the Hawkeyes. She was Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year last season and has played on two NCAA tournament teams.
“She’s one of those players everybody loves,” Bluder said. “She brings joy to the team, she’s a great team player. And when she hits a couple of those 3s, the crowd at Carver (in Iowa City) goes nuts.”
Dixon knows that circumstances sometimes dictate it will not be her game to score.
“Beth (Doolittle) was 10 for 13, you have to keep going where it’s hot,” Dixon said. “This is a big win for us, a road win and everyone’s so good in the Big Ten. We’re off to a pretty good start and we want to keep that up.”
Although she didn’t have big points, Logic knows Dixon still affected the game.
“She’s a huge part of why we can get 23 assists on 33 baskets,” Logic said. “She brings so much to us. We won by 17 and she didn’t even shoot a 3 – we’ll take that any day of the week.”