What a comeback.
Stuck in a 24-point hole late in the first half, No. 14 Iowa ripped off an incredible second-half comeback to open the Junkanoo Jam. The Hawkeyes rallied Friday for an 84-81 win over No. 20 West Virginia at Gateway Christian Academy in Bimini, Bahamas.
The Mountaineers roared ahead with a hot-shooting start — going 8-for-14 from deep in the first half — and owned a 48-29 intermission lead. But the Hawkeyes slowly chipped away from there.
Iowa (4-0) was within 14 heading into the fourth when all-American Megan Gustafson (28 points, 16 rebounds) went to work. The senior forward was unstoppable down low and re-energized a Hawkeye group that desperately needed life.
Iowa outscored West Virginia by 17 in the final quarter, knotting things 75-75 on a Gustafson jumper with 1 minute, 39 seconds to go. She followed a Mountaineer layup with a big and-1 — and West Virginia coach Mike Carey got hit with a technical foul. Tania Davis, who finished 13-for-14 at the line, hit the two free throws to hand the Hawkeyes an 80-77 advantage.
Iowa held on from there with late defense, another Gustafson layup and a key free throw.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said on the postgame broadcast. “When you’re down that big in the second half — and that was as bad as a second quarter as I’ve seen — we just had to stay focused and stay positive. I kept telling them to just chip away at it, and they did. Tania played great as a senior leader, and we finally got the ball to Megan inside in the second half.”
The schedule doesn’t ease up. Iowa will face Florida State on Saturday in the Bimini Division title game.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.