Iowa forward Hannah Stewart high fives forward Chase Coley and forward Amanda Ollinger during the Iowa/Samford basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bulldogs, 80-59. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Hannah Stewart leading Iowa’s ‘Bench Mob’

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Many of the Hawkeye stars have taken up the spotlight, but the Iowa women’s basketball team’s bench has also been superb.

By Jordan Zuniga

jordan-zuniga@uiowa.edu

Iowa women’s basketball will tip off its 10th game of the season against Iowa State on Wednesday night with an 8-1 record.

Much of that success can be attributed to the 6-3 center Megan Gustafson, who entered the season with expectations almost as tall as she is, and so far, she has surpassed them.

This week kicked off with her earning her fourth-straight Big Ten weekly honor in just the fourth week of the season. But basketball is a team sport and, as good as Gustafson is, she cannot win games alone.

Head coach Lisa Bluder loves her star center but realizes she needs more than one player to win games, which is why she also loves the success her bench has had this year.

It’s true the starters may have the biggest impact on the game, but often, games come down to the little things such as bench points. Bench production is of even higher importance this year because Iowa’s lack of available players.

So far, its been hard to notice Iowa’s lack of depth, because even though the Hawkeyes have smaller numbers than most, the bench has dominated.

In the team’s first nine games, the bench has averaged 19.7 points per contest, which provides quite a boost for the starters.

RELATED: Iowa women’s hoops takes care of Samford

Iowa’s bench is led by junior Hannah Stewart, who has averaged 17.6 minutes off the pine. Those 17.6 minutes have been efficient; she’s shooting 56.9 percent from the floor and has raised her free-throw percentage.

Stewart averages 8.4 points per game while grabbing 5.9 rebounds. Her mindset has allowed her to be so efficient with her scoring.

“I don’t really go into the game thinking I need to score,” Stewart said. “Megan and Chase [Coley] do a really good job with that. I think my role is to take what’s there.”

In the nine games in which she has come off the bench, Stewart has swatted away 12 of her opponent’s shots.

The other standout bench player has been redshirt freshman Alexis Sevillian; four of her nine games have been starts, but she has taken over when coming off the bench.

Not including her four starts, Sevillian averages a solid 10 points per game while shooting a whooping 56 percent from 3.

The Hawkeye bench mob and the rest of the team are back in action Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. in Ames to take on archrival Iowa State.

“This will be a tough test for us,” guard Tania Davis said. “We’ve been on a high so far, and we haven’t really had any true road games. So I’m looking forward to going into Hilton and giving our best.”

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