IOWA CITY — Iowa point guard Samantha Logic held the ball high along the left side of the 3-point line, baiting the Illinois trap. But before it arrived, the junior fired a perfect pass to the post for an easy layup from Bethany Doolittle to cap an early 10-0 surge.
The exchange was precisely the type of calm, savvy playmaking the Hawkeyes needed to combat the Illini pressure defense.
They received it in spades from their floor leader.
Logic played all 40 minutes without committing a turnover, scored nine points, dished six assists and utilized long, quick passes and aggressive drives to stay ahead of Illinois’ half-court trap to help down the Illini, 69-55, before 3,636 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We kind of run that same defense,” Logic said. “And I’ve been running it for a couple of years now. You just know a little bit of what they are trying to do.”
Doolittle led all scorers with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and freshman Ally Disterhoft posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The former Iowa City West prep has scored in double figures in her last nine games, including all seven of her starts. Both teams wore pink uniforms and sneakers in support of breast cancer awareness.
Iowa (20-6, 8-4 Big Ten) remains in fourth place in the Big Ten. Since losing their first two conference games, the Hawkeyes have won eight of 10.
Ashley McConnell paced Illinois (9-16, 2-10) with 13 points. The Illini have dropped six games in a row and were again without 6-foot-3 freshman and second-leading scorer Jacqui Grant with an ankle sprain. Ivory Crawford, who entered the game averaging 15.5 points per game, was held to five.
Iowa fought through 11 first-half turnovers and 1-of-9 shooting from 3-point range to lead 29-20 at halftime.
The Hawkeyes bounded out of the locker room with seven straight points, capped by a 3-pointer from Melissa Dixon for a 36-20 lead. Illinois got no closer than nine the rest of the night.
After missing all six first-half 3-point shots, Dixon made three in the second half and finished with 11 points.
“I thought it was great momentum,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “(It) just let us kind of play without the stress of them being right there. I thought it was just a good momentum boost for us and kind of took a little bit out of their sails at the same time.”
This is the eighth 20-win season for Bluder in 14 years, including six of the last seven. With four remaining games in the regular season, plus the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, Iowa could very well match or better Bluder’s 23 wins from the 2004-05 team that reached the WNIT semifinals.
“We’re happy to get 20 wins,” Bluder said. “To get it this early in the year is a good thing for us.”
Iowa hits the road beginning Sunday for pivotal games at Purdue and Michigan, teams chasing the Hawkeyes in the standings. The trip will go a long way in determining which team can nail down a coveted top-four spot in the league and a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament.
“That top-four seed is so important,” Bluder said. “We only have one meeting with Purdue this year, so if it comes down to head-to-head, this one game is going to be very, very important.”