The Daily Iowan

Gustafson dominates in heartbreaking loss

Megan Gustafson’s career night wasn’t enough to get the Hawkeyes past Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.

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Iowa forward Megan Gustafson attempts a shot during the Iowa/Minnesota Big Ten tournament basketball game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday, March, 2, 2018. The Golden Gophers defeated the Hawkeyes, 90-89. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson attempts a shot during the Iowa/Minnesota Big Ten tournament basketball game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday, March, 2, 2018. The Golden Gophers defeated the Hawkeyes, 90-89. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson attempts a shot during the Iowa/Minnesota Big Ten tournament basketball game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday, March, 2, 2018. The Golden Gophers defeated the Hawkeyes, 90-89. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Jordan Zuniga, [email protected]

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INDIANAPOLIS — The difficulty of Iowa’s 90-89 loss was written all over the face of Megan Gustafson during the postgame press conference as she sat at a microphone, holding back tears.

It’s no wonder; she left everything she had on the court in a losing effort.

With 48 points and 15 rebounds, the media’s Big Ten Player of the Year dominated the game, and no matter what Minnesota did, Gustafson just kept on dominating.

“I think she was just in a zone,” Minnesota’s head coach Marlene Stollings said. “The basket had to seem like an ocean to her. We threw five different people at her, we also threw a secondary defender at her most of the night. I just have to give her credit, she played at a very high level tonight.”

Just how good a day did Gustafson have?

She broke the single-game tournament record for points and field goals made, and she also broke Iowa’s single-game points record.

At the conclusion of the third quarter Gustafson had 39 of Iowa’s 65 points (for the mathematicians out there, that’s 60 percent of the Hawkeyes points). No other Iowa player was even in double figures at that point; it was the Megan Gustafson Show.

Her mega performance came after a rather disappointing outing against Northwestern the day before (12 points, 9 rebounds), which helped feed her monster game.

“I think yesterday I didn’t contribute as much as I normally do,” she said. “So that gave me a little bit extra motivation. I knew this was going to be a big game, so I just told myself I needed to step up.”

Step up she sure did. The 48-point performance should have been enough to guarantee a win, but Gustafson’s supporting cast struggled to match her intensity.

Take out Gustafson’s white-hot 73 percent shooting, and the Hawkeyes fired away at 40 percent — 36 percent through the first three quarters — but what hurt them the most were turnovers.

Iowa hacked up the ball 19 times, while only taking away possession from Minnesota seven times, and, as a result, Minnesota was able to chuck up 19 more shots.

With their minus-12 turnover rate, it’s a partial miracle that the Hawkeyes had a shot to win on the final possession. Luckily for Iowa, its season won’t end in Indianapolis.

The Hawkeyes’ spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament is all but certain; ESPN’s Charlie Crème had them as a No. 6 seed in his last bracket.

For coach Lisa Bluder, it will be nice to be able to see her Big Ten Player of the Year in college basketball’s biggest tournament.

“I think Megan deserves to be on the national stage,” Bluder said. “I think she’s one of the best players in America, and I think that [she] definitely needs to be there.”

Bluder could’ve said the same thing after a number of games, but Gustafson’s 48 points sure puts extra weight behind her statement.

With the selection show taking place on March 5, Iowa doesn’t have long to wait before finding out who it plays.

After the Hawkeyes find out their seeding, they will have about a week to prepare for their first-round opponent.

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