By Sean Bock
Megan Gustafson solidified herself in the Iowa record books, but she couldn’t care less about her milestone. Only one statistic mattered: a win.
“I just have to thank my teammates,” Gustafson said. “They’re the reason I’m able to do what I’m doing on the court; they set me up with great passes. I try to do my best to get rebounds, but at the end of the day I have to thank my teammates.”
The Hawkeyes completed step two of its critical seven-game stretch to close the season, taking care of Minnesota, 92-84, in Carver-Hawkeye on Sunday afternoon.
The junior forward registered her 22nd double-double of the season and the 49thof her career, breaking an Iowa program record for most career double-doubles, men and women.
Gustafson finished with a team-high 25 points and 15 rebounds and converted on 11 of her 14 free-throw attempts.
As head coach Lisa Bluder has preached these past couple weeks, the Hawkeyes needed more production on offense other than Gustafson. Along with the junior’s high-scoring efforts, the Hawkeyes had four other players score in double digits.
Chase Coley had 17 points, Makenzie Meyer followed with 16 while draining 4 3s, Alexis Sevillian scored 11, and Kathleen Doyle chipped in 10 points along with 8 assists.
“It’s what we do,” Bluder said. “It’s what we love to do. I love the five double figures; I love the way we pass the ball and try to hunt for that good shot.”
Iowa was able to keep Minnesota at bay throughout much of the first half because of its hot shooting performance from behind the arc. Three-point shooting has been a struggle recently for the Hawkeyes, but it was vital to their success against the Gophers, especially from Meyer.
“It definitely boosted my confidence at the beginning of the game,” Meyer said. “It’s always nice when you get the first one or two to drop. Obviously, I struggled at Michigan State, so once I was able to try to break that barrier, it boosted my confidence a lot.”
The Black and Gold held a 15-point lead at the break, but the Gophers started to fight back and cut the Hawkeye lead to 4 points late in the fourth quarter.
With clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch, Iowa distanced itself and limited Minnesota’s chances to bring the game within a possession.
The Gophers were led by junior guard and team-leading scorer Kenisha Bell’s game-high 35 points, and senior guard Carlier Wagner followed with 20 points on 3-of-5 from 3-point land.
Iowa (18-6, 6-5 Big Ten) is a No. 9 seed in ESPN’s latest bracketology. With five games remaining in the regular season, the Hawkeyes control their destiny and can either improve their NCAA Tournament ranking or find themselves on the bubble.
Bluder’s Bunch will be in Carver-Hawkeye for its next contest, Thursday against Penn State, which is 4-6 in Big Ten play.
“We’d like to make it three in a row when we play Penn State,” Bluder said. “We started out with a challenging Big Ten schedule. You look at who we have remaining, it’s more teams from the bottom of the Big Ten.”