Gustafson stands tall as No. 10 Iowa holds off Indiana 70-61
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Megan Gustafson again turned the Big Ten Tournament into her personal showcase.
This time, she left as the undisputed winner.
The two-time conference player of the year scored 30 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and scored the last five points Friday to help the No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes pull away late for a 70-61 victory over Indiana — the first quarterfinal victory of her career.
“It’s not just me. We have some very good post players on our team and we battle against each other every single day in practice,” Gustafson said. “When we have more than just one person battling down low, we’re pretty hard to stop.”
With Gustafson trying to check off one of the few remaining items on her to-do list — a tourney title — she could be pretty hard to stop this weekend.
She showed why Friday.
The school’s career scoring leader extended her conference record for double-doubles to 83 while matching her own single-season record at Iowa (28). And one year after scoring a single-game tourney record 48 points in a loss to Minnesota, Gustafson now has the Hawkeyes (24-6) one win from their first championship game appearance since 2014 and two wins from their first tourney crown since 2001.
As long as Gustafson is in the middle, anything is possible, as Indiana (20-12) discovered.
The 6-foot-3 senior was 11 of 19 from the field and 8 of 9 at the free-throw line. She matched the fifth-highest single-game rebounding total in tournament history and had four blocks, all in the first half, and four assists.
And when she wasn’t padding the stat line, her mere presence made a difference. Eventually, the combination proved too much for the Hoosiers, who must now wait anxiously to see if they make the NCAA Tournament.
“I think we think we’re just as good as anybody in the Big Ten and I think we’ve proven that,” Grace Berger said after scoring 13 points for Indiana. “We weren’t really coming in with the mindset that we were the underdog.”
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder didn’t feel that way either after losing in Bloomington two weeks ago.
The Hoosiers traded jabs with Gustafson & Co. the entire game and led 54-53 when Ali Patberg completed a three-point play with 5:20 to go. Patberg scored 25 to lead the Hoosiers.
But Gustafson’s defensive rebound led to Tania Davis’ go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:11 left. Gustafson’s screen on the ensuing possession freed up Kathleen Doyle for a mid-range jumper, and then Gustafson made two free throws to close out a 7-0 run that gave Iowa a 60-53 lead with 2:28 left.
The Hoosiers never got closer than four again, and Gustafson sealed it by making five of six free throws in the final 32 seconds.
“She (Gustafson) has three, sometimes more people around her all the time and she’s still able to put up those numbers,” Bluder said.
Indiana: The Hoosiers used last year’s NCAA Tournament snub as motivation to win the WNIT title. Could it happen again? Indiana came into the conference tourney squarely on the bubble but took Iowa to the wire after beating higher-seeded Minnesota on Thursday. Both games could help the Hoosiers make their case.
Iowa: While the Hawkeyes’ inability to put away the scrappy Hoosiers until the final minutes was not a good look as they try to improve their seeding, the bottom line is they’re still playing Saturday.
Indiana: Brenna Wise finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. … Despite going toe to toe with Gustafson, the Hoosiers were only outrebounded 39-32 and only outscored 28-18 in the paint. … Indiana committed seven turnovers but shot 36.5 percent from the field and was 6 of 18 on 3s.
Iowa: Gustafson also drew nine fouls. … Makenzie Meyer scored all 12 of her points on 3s. … Hannah Stewart scored nine points and had 13 rebounds. … The Hawkeyes were 7 of 16 on 3s and 11 of 13 from the free-throw line.
Indiana: Waits to see if it has done enough to make the NCAA Tournament and avoid defending its WNIT title.
Iowa: Faces third-seeded Rutgers, a 64-49 winner over Purdue, in Saturday’s second semifinal.