Megan Gustafson and the Hawkeyes open the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.
INDIANAPOLIS — Megan Gustafson broke a Big Ten Tournament record with 48 points and 19 field goals, but Iowa dropped its quarterfinal matchup against Minnesota, 90-89.
Down one with 11 seconds to play, sophomore Kathleen Doyle took an inbound pass from under Iowa’s basket and streaked down the right side of the court. She was trying to get the ball to Gustafson, the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. Minnesota’s defense made that impossible, though, and Doyle instead gave the ball to sophomore Amanda Ollinger, whose desperation 3-pointer didn’t end up close to the rim.
This is the first time Iowa (24-7, 11-6) has been bounced from the conference tournament by Minnesota (23-7, 12-5). The Hawkeyes were 3-0.
Iowa had mounted two runs in the second and third quarters to get itself in position to beat the No. 4 seed Gophers. Both runs were sparked by Gustafson, who also set a school record for points scored and field goals made in a game.
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Gustafson kick-started a sputtering Iowa offense with four straight points to start a 12-0 Hawkeyes run that tied the game at 33-33 in the second period.
“I knew this was going to be a big game,” said Gustafson, whose 48 points are a single-game record for both the men’s and women’s conference tournament. “Minnesota is a great team, so I just told myself that I needed to step up.”
Minnesota countered with four players averaging better than 13 points. Iowa started the game in a zone defense in an attempt to take away driving lanes, but Minnesota still found those lanes, and it resulted in 32 of the Gophers’ 42 first-half points coming in the paint. Three Minnesota players reaching double-digit scoring by the half.
Iowa switched from its zone defense to the traditional man defense about halfway through the second quarter, which helped lead to three turnovers during the 12-0 run. Minnesota hadn’t previously turned the ball over.
“They got a little bit out of rhythm,” said Doyle. “We started making shots and taking care of the ball a little better. So that definitely helped us.”
When Iowa needed another run in the third quarter, it was Gustafson again who answered. Minnesota was up 10 when Gustafson scored eight straight points for the Hawkeyes and later tied her career best 37 points to give them their first lead of the game at 63-61. Iowa would finish the quarter on a 22-12 run.
What ultimately grounded Iowa was a 19-7 turnover disadvantage. Every player who made it into the game committed at least one turnover, except for junior Carly Mohns, who played one minute.
“They have 80 shots on the hoop, we have 61. It’s tough,” said head coach Lisa Bluder. “It’s amazing really that we were in the game.”
The silver lining for Iowa is that this early exit from Indianapolis gives it more time to prepare for the NCAA Tournament, especially with the conference tournament being played a week early this season.
“I think it’ll be really good for us,” said sophomore Makenzie Meyer, “We haven’t had a week to work on ourselves in a long time.”
ESPN analyst Charlie Creme projects the Hawkeyes as a No. 6 seed in the Spokane regional. A No. 6 seed would be the Hawkeyes’ highest since the last time they were in the tournament in 2015 as a No. 3 seed.
“We’re 24-7,” said Bluder. “We finished tied for third in the Big Ten. We had some really big wins. We beat Ohio State. … I think definitely we should be in the tournament.”