By Jordan Zuniga
Iowa women’s basketball has returned home after two hard-fought Big Ten Tournament games. Their first one was a 55-45 defensive battle with Northwestern, and game No. 2 saw an offensive shootout in which Iowa was just outscored by Minnesota, 90-89.
Megan Gustafson might just be the best player in the country
The game against Northwestern saw the worst games statistically this season for Gustafson. She put up just 12 points with 9 rebounds on only eight shots.
If anyone thought the Northwestern game was a sign she was slowing down, they needed to only wait a day, because she followed that somewhat disappointing performance with her best yet.
Gustafson ripped apart the Minnesota defense, dropping 48 points while grabbing 15 boards and swatting away three shots, breaking several single-game scoring records in the process.
“I think she’s one of the best players in America,” coach Lisa Bluder said after the Minnesota game.
A bold statement by Bluder, but Gustafson has the numbers to back it up. She leads the nation in numerous statistical categories and sits in the top five in several others. Perhaps the stat that best exemplifies her dominance is points per possession, which she leads the nation in with 1.3.
This means that every time Iowa has possession of the ball with Gustafson on the floor, she averages 1.3 points. Just how insane is that
It’s the fifth-highest points per possession for a season since the stat started being recorded during the 2011-12 season.
The NCAA has recognized her stellar season by naming her as one of the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, which goes to the nation’s most outstanding player.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
Giving their opponent extra possessions has been a virus for the Hawkeyes all season long. Their 16.2 turnovers per game ranks them 214th in the nation.
The Big Ten Tournament was no different, as they turned the ball over 18 times against Northwestern and 19 against Minnesota. The turnovers against the Gophers were crippling; because of them, the Gophers had 19 more shots in a 1-point game.
Iowa doesn’t have a lot of players on the roster — that’s no secret. The Hawkeyes dealt with that all season long. Yet their lack of depth came to the fore in this past weekend’s tournament. In both games, only eight players saw time on the floor.
That doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story, either; in both games, the eighth player saw just a single minute of action, so effectively the Hawkeyes went seven deep.
To make matters worse, Makenzie Meyer and Gustafson were the only two to reach double figures in both games. If the Hawkeyes are going to make an NCAA Tournament run, they are going to need help.
Fast starts key to success
After a rough January, Iowa knew it needed to step up its game in February. So it won all seven of its games during that month.
The reason for their success? Quick starts.
“We really emphasize coming out punching in the first quarter,” Meyer said. “Our coaching staff has ever since February because before that, we were a little shaky in the first quarter.”
That first-quarter punch has been a big part of their success over the past few weeks. In each of Iowa’s past eight wins, it has won the first quarter and been dominant while doing it, outscoring its opponents, 169-88.
Jumping out to a 22-1 first quarter lead was huge in the Hawkeyes’ win against Northwestern, and they’ll need more starts like that if they hope to do well in the NCAA Tournament.