An uncharacteristic second-half offensive outage turned into a rare loss for the Iowa women's basketball team Thursday, but it was the Hawkeyes late defensive effort that Lisa Bluder found more troubling.
Illinois scored 43 points in the second half and limited No. 17 Iowa to eight points over the final 10 minutes in a 73-61 come from behind win over the Hawkeyes at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Iowa (11-3, 2-1 Big Ten) while Illinois improved to 11-4 and 2-1 in Big Ten play with just its second win over the Hawkeyes in its last 10 tries.
"They shot 65 percent from the field in the second half and we shot 35 percent and to give up 43 points in a half defensively is just atrocious," Bluder said. "We couldn't stop the ball screen, we went to a zone and that worked for a while but they just got too many high-percentage shots."
Iowa led by as many as 14 points in the first half before Illinois closed the half on a 9-0 run and trailed just 35-30 at intermission.
The Hawkeyes took a six-point lead at 53-47 on a Bethany Doolittle basket with 10:02 left, but it was all Illini from that point on.
Illinois rattled off 12 straight holding Iowa scoreless for nearly five minutes while taking a 59-53 lead.
Melissa Dixon snapped the 12-0 run and the Hawkeye scoring drought with a 3-pointer with 5:11 left, but Illinois freshman center Chatrice White answered back with a 3-pointer of her own less than a minute later and Iowa never got closer than six points the rest of the game.
"We had a lead with nine minutes left and we had 22 turnovers in this game," Bluder said. "22 turnovers that give 26 points to Illinois they shot 17 free throws to our four is really the difference in this game."
The 61 points was the second lowest output of the season for the Hawkeyes who entered the game averaging 81.5 per game.
Iowa hadn't score fewer than 76 points in a game since managing 52 in a Dec. 4 loss to Louisville.
The Hawkeyes shot 41 percent in the opening half, but hit just 10-of-29 field goals after halftime and shot 38 percent for the game.
Iowa also committed 15 of its season-high 22 turnovers in the second half.
"The turnovers are just alarming because we worked hard on their half-court traps during the week," Bluder said. "I thought we did a good job and we just looked like we'd never seen it before tonight."
Dixon was the bright spot for the Hawkeyes continuing her torrid 3-point shooting.
The senior from Illinois hit eight 3-pointers on Thursday while pouring in a game-high 24 points.
Dixon has made 29 3-pointers in the last four games and moved into fifth place all-time in the Big 10 in career 3-pointers.
"Melissa was the only one that really came to play today," Bluder said. "I don't know what was wrong with the rest of our team I just feel like Melissa was there."
White led Illinois with 22 points and six rebounds while Brittany Carter added 19 points and Kyley Simmons had 15 for the Illini.
Ally Disterhoft was the only other Hawkeye in double figures finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Samantha Logic had eight points, seven rebounds and 14 assists for Iowa which returns home to face Purdue Sunday at 1 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"It's one game," Bluder said. "We have to move on and get ready for Purdue on Sunday."
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com.