Iowa forward Megan Gustafson attempts a shot during the Iowa/Arkansas-Pine Bluff basketball game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Lions, 85-45. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

In the numbers, Iowa women’s hoops among Big Ten best

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Iowa may not top the Big Ten standings, but statistics show it might just be the best team in the Big Ten.

By Jordan Zuniga

jordan-zuniga@uiowa.edu

The Iowa women’s basketball team enters a weeklong break riding a four-game winning streak and having won five of its last six.

This was a much needed streak for Iowa. Prior to it, the Hawkeyes were stuck on the wrong end of four of five games and flirting with the bottom of the Big Ten.

Now, they seem to be pillaging through the Big Ten as they did during their nonconference schedule; Iowa has its mind on a Big Ten Championship trophy and a NCAA Tournament berth.

Iowa sits in seventh place in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes are only 1.5 games out of second place in a very tight Big Ten race. Even though the Hawkeyes are in the middle of the Big Ten standings, some of the statistics suggest that they are one of the elite teams in the conference, which could poise them to continue their late-season surge and excel in the upcoming tournament.

Shooting percentages

Iowa, as a team, leads the Big Ten in a few statistical categories, but the most important one might be the high percentage at which it shoots the ball – the most efficient team in the conference.

The Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in free-throw percentage, making .767 percent of their freebies, and they also shoot the best from the floor, hitting a higher percentage of their shot than anyone in the Big Ten (48.7 percent).

Not only do they shoot at a high rate, the Hawkeyes also force a lot of misses from their opponents, holding them to just 37.4 percent shooting from the floor, second-best in the Big Ten.

They also hold 3-point shooters to the second-lowest percent in the Big Ten, with 3-point shoots falling just 30.8 percent of the time against the Hawkeyes.

Two other areas in which Iowa leads the Big Ten: blocks and steals. Its 5.5 blocks per game is helped in large part by Megan Gustafson’s 2.2 average.

Sharing is caring

That the Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in assists should come as no shock to anyone who has followed them; it’s part of their identity to share the ball.

But Iowa leads the Big Ten in assists by such a wide margin that it might be able to finish the year leading the Big Ten without recording another assist. Iowa has 562 assists (21.6 a game) while the next highest team, Maryland, has just 432 (18 per game).

More astounding is that Iowa ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in turnovers per game, yet still leads the Big Ten with a 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Gustafson’s dominance

Defensive rebounds are the last category in which Iowa leads the Big Ten in with 31.1 rebounds per game, nearly 3 more per game than the No. 2 team on the list. Of course individually, Gustafson leads the Big Ten in scoring (24.8 per game), rebounding (12.8), and field-goal percent (.662).

She’s been so good this year that she was recently named a late-season finalist for the Women’s Citizen Naismith Trophy, awarded to the best player in college basketball.

Gustafson and Iowa will continue to try matching their lead in individual statistics with their Big Ten record Feb. 18, when they take on Wisconsin in the first of three games in seven days. The game will be in Carver-Hawkeye and tip at 2 p.m.

RELATED: Hawkeyes Run Wild Over ‘Cats

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