Bluder's goal for Gustafson: 'Be the best post in the Big Ten'
IOWA CITY, Ia. — When Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder talks, Megan Gustafson listens.
Bluder wanted Gustafson to get stronger this offseason. So she did, grabbing three more rebounds per game compared to last year.
Bluder wanted Gustafson to become more aggressive on offense. She did, nearly doubling her scoring average as a sophomore.
And Bluder wanted Gustafson to improve at the charity stripe. She did, jumping up nearly 20 percent to 79.5 this season.
"That’s the beauty of Megan," Bluder said. "I’m going to give her something this summer and she’s going to go work on it."
What more could she do this offseason?
Gustafson is already part of the Big Ten's elite. She made the conference's first team. She's the ninth-best scorer, third-best rebounder, second-most efficient shooter and 10th-best shot blocker.
She's the best single-season rebounder in Iowa's history. She just played the game of her life in Round 2 of the WNIT, scoring 33 points on 15 of 16 shooting in a 78-73 win over South Dakota. And she'll again be the featured player Thursday in Round 3 against Colorado, a shooter-heavy team that lacks much of an inside presence.
So ... what's next?
"I think she should be the best post in the Big Ten," Bluder said. "I think that’s what she needs to strive to be — the best post in the Big Ten. And to be on everyone’s All-American list. I think that has to happen."
For now, though, Bluder and Gustafson are focused on the Buffs, who technically finished tied for last, record-wise, in the Pac-12. But their 5-13 conference record is bit deceiving. The Pac-12 had the country's best league RPI this season and the Buffs don't really have any awful losses. They beat Oregon by 10 points in late February; Oregon just advanced to the Sweet 16.
But they don't boast a player who can beat Gustafson in the paint. Neither did South Dakota.
"We know that there’s going to be an advantage inside again, and so (we're) able to use that to our advantage," Gustafson said. "The in-and-out game is going to be important because they might be sagging inside or collapsing, so being able to pitch it outside to our 3-point shooters is going to be key as well."
Sophomore guard Kennedy Leonard paces Colorado with 17.4 points and 5.8 assists per game, and she made the All-Pac-12 first team. She also grabs 2.5 steals per game and leads a defense that gets 11.3 steals per game, good for 10th in the country.
The Buffs beat South Dakota State 81-75 in overtime in Round 2 of the WNIT. South Dakota State beat Iowa 66-64 on Nov. 20.
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
Iowa (19-13, 8-8 Big Ten) vs. Colorado (17-15, 5-13 Pac-12)
When/where: 7 p.m., Carver-Hawkeye Arena
TV: Big Ten Network Plus
About Colorado: Sophomore guard Kennedy Leonard paces Colorado with 17.4 points and 5.8 assists per game, and she made the All-Pac-12 first team. She also grabs 2.5 steals per game and leads a defense that gets 11.3 steals per game, good for 10th in the country.