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All that went wrong in Iowa’s first two Big Ten road games went right for the Hawkeyes on Monday night.
The guards came to play. A fourth-quarter lead didn’t evaporate. And, of course, Megan Gustafson did her thing as No. 22 Iowa landed a huge road win in front of a national TV audience. The Hawkeyes surged to an 81-63 win over No. 23 Minnesota at Williams Arena.
Iowa (12-4, 3-2 Big Ten Conference) dominated the second half, turning an eight-point intermission deficit into a convincing rout. The Hawkeyes shot 67 percent after the break and maintained a double-digit lead for much of the fourth quarter.
Gustafson poured in a team-high 34 points, but backcourt contributions from Tania Davis (21 points) and Kathleen Doyle (11) proved just as vital. Hannah Stewart added 10 points, as well.
A 24-9 third-quarter run flipped the momentum entirely. Minnesota (12-4, 1-4) adjusted well in the second quarter after Gustafson burned the Gophers early, and had the crowd pumping heading into the locker room.
Minnesota appeared ready to snap its three-game losing streak. Iowa seemed to be heading toward another road stumble.
Not so fast.
The Iowa defense locked down hard to begin the third, holding Minnesota to one field goal during a seven-minute stretch. Davis and Stewart, meanwhile, caught fire to spark an 18-3 run, and Gustafson closed things out the way she often does.
Lisa Bluder balked at calling Monday a must-win, but the Hawkeyes needed a strong road showing after duds at Michigan State and Purdue. Iowa is back above water in the Big Ten and should have plenty of momentum heading into a manageable week.
Iowa hosts Michigan on Thursday and travels to Illinois on Sunday. Both are under .500 in conference play.
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.