Megan Gustafson: 'Amazing' to complete in-state sweep in senior year Dargan Southard, firstname.lastname@example.org
DES MOINES, Ia. — Up and down the in-state foes went, whizzing by at a frantically productive pace. This is what Drake and Iowa do. Friday night, they took center stage under the Knapp Center lights.
The Bulldogs countered Iowa’s early surge. Then it was game on — until Megan Gustafson put her foot down and did what all-Americans do.
The Hawkeyes senior shouldered the load in the fourth quarter, cementing a 91-82 road win over Drake. The win gives No. 15 Iowa (10-2) in-state sweeps in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history.
"It's pretty amazing," said Gustafson, who finished with 44 points and 14 rebounds on 17-for-24 shooting. "Senior year, just to be able to get that sweep of the Iowa teams. We really wanted to win this for our coaches. There are so many connections to this program. This was a special one, and it felt really good to get this win for them."
The Bulldogs (8-4) contained Gustafson as best they could, holding her to 14 points on 6-for-11 in the first half. That’s a win compared to most stat-lines. But Gustafson wasn’t faltering in winning time.
She scored 23 of 28 during one second-half stretch, including 19 of Iowa's 23 fourth-quarter points. The late gameplan was simple and straightforward: Find No. 10 and let her work.
That gave Iowa some separation as the Hawkeyes owned the fourth — 23-15. The Bulldog shots that fell earlier weren’t swishing through and defensive stops were hard to find.
"I don't know if we ran out of gas, maybe," Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk said. "I think we got some really good looks from the 3-point line especially (in the fourth quarter), and I think that was OK. Our movement on offense wasn't as good, and so a lot of that too is it's hard to take the ball out of bounds and run your offense. We weren't getting the stops we needed to get.
"It'll be interesting to go back and look at the film because I think there were some things we'll take away like, 'Ah, if we get that one in.'"
Had it not been for Gustafson, Becca Hittner’s offensive performance would’ve dominated the postgame chatter. She finished with a career-high 32 points on 12-for-21 shooting. Twenty-three of those came in the first half.
Jennie Baranczyk, Becca Hittner break down Drake's loss to Iowa Dargan Southard, email@example.com
Those who yearned for action got plenty of it in an eventful start. The box score doesn’t show anything unusual — a 26-23 Iowa lead after a quarter — but how we got there was anything but ordinary.
The Hawkeyes came out firing — really firing. Iowa knocked down its first nine shots and didn’t miss until 4:51 to go in the opening quarter, ready to run away with this in-state showdown. A 26-10 lead had the black-and-gold pockets yelling.
Then Drake woke up.
"We've been in that situation a couple times this year," Hittner said, "so we really just trusted our system and got some really good looks. Just picking their defense apart and we were able to work our way back into it."
A 17-0 Bulldog surge ensued after Gustafson went to the bench as Drake’s fire-away offense finally got its feet under it. Hittner did a lot of the scoring, but it was the Bulldogs in general that found solid footing after a sluggish start.
A veteran team like Drake wasn’t going to panic after a rough opening, but credit the Bulldogs for immediately punching back. That surge kept the home crowd engaged and didn’t waste the pregame juice.
It was a battle from there — until Gustafson slammed the door shut.
"To have over 6,000 people come out tonight, it shows the excitement that we have for women's basketball in this state right now," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "And that's exactly what you want to have.
"We've worked hard and long — all of us coaches in this state — to have this happen, to have this be a really big matchup and a really big night where people want to come here and watch. I'm just so thrilled that so many people showed up."
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.