Iowa women's basketball: Megan Gustafson, No. 16 Hawkeyes grind past IUPUI

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Call it a Cy-Hawk hangover, call it an impressive underdog showing. Whatever the case, No. 16 Iowa was in a legit dogfight Saturday afternoon.

As they did against Robert Morris in a similar spot last weekend, the Hawkeyes put their foot down with a strong fourth quarter to avoid a disastrous upset. A 72-58 Iowa win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was the final tally, but Lisa Bluder’s squad didn’t look smooth until the end.

"We knew this was going to be a hard-fought game," Bluder said. "You look at IUPUI  — 29 RPI, 6-2 (record coming in), beat Mississippi at Mississippi, have wins over VCU, took overtime for Wisconsin to win. So we knew that they were a good team coming in. Sometimes, you have that emotional letdown after the great victory on Wednesday night at Iowa State."    

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson (10) attempts a basket during a NCAA women's basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes (7-2) entered averaging nearly 86 points per game, but they didn’t come close to touching that total in their third-lowest output this season.

Treys didn’t fall. Assists didn’t pile up like they usually do to offset the turnovers. And Iowa found itself in a two-point game heading to the fourth. The Jaguars (6-3) actually led for most of the third.    

When in doubt, go to the all-American. That’s the luxury Iowa has when not much else is clicking.

CY-HAWK WOMEN'S BASKETBALL:Tania Davis' game-winner lifts Hawkeyes to thrilling win over Iowa State

Megan Gustafson finished with a game-high 32 points on 12-for-17 shooting, consistently fighting through double teams like usual to grind out a win. She poured in 16 of Iowa’s 24 fourth-quarter points — during one stretch scoring seven straight.

"There's a lot of trust and confidence that goes into that," said Gustafson, who became just the third player in program history to score 2,000 career points. "Going into that fourth quarter, I knew that we needed to pull away. So I just took it upon myself to get myself in the best position to score."  

The Hawkeyes’ consistency has been up and down so far through this nonconference stretch, but it hasn’t really cost Iowa much in the loss column.

Good teams can push through adversity and avoid disaster, even on off nights. Give the Hawkeyes credit for doing that.

"I feel like that's when you learn the most," Amanda Ollinger said, "when things aren't going right — we're not hitting our shots and turning the ball over. It's so much better to have those games early on than when you start Big Ten season and go to the tournament.

"We'd much rather have those mistakes now so we can fix those mistakes, learn from them, grow from them and just overall become a better team because of those grind sessions and bad plays."   

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 msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.