Perhaps it was a hangover from the thrilling last-second win over Iowa State Wednesday, but nothing came easy in Iowa women’s basketball’s victory over Indiana/Purdue-Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon.
Before the game, center Megan Gustafson was honored for becoming the program’s career leader in rebounding. This was a fitting ceremony because the game was certainly won due to efforts from Iowa’s inside players.
The final score was 72-58 in Iowa’s favor, but the gritty battle was won in the trenches. Iowa could not buy a bucket from 3-point range – the team was 1-for-14 on the afternoon – so the team had to hedge its bets on its play in the paint.
“We weren’t so good from the three-point line tonight,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We’ve got to find a cure for that. I’m glad that we didn’t [commit] a lot of turnovers trying to get the ball to [Gustafson] when the 3s weren’t falling.”
Business was slow for Iowa in the first half. The Hawkeyes shot only 1-for-7 from 3-point range, continuing struggles that have pervaded for much of the season.
Surprisingly, Iowa did not own the boards in the first half as the Jaguars outpaced Iowa in rebounds 21-18. On the shoulders of Indiana/Purdue-Indianapolis center Macee Williams – who put up 15 points and 7 rebounds in the first half – Iowa found itself trailing 33-31 heading into the break.
The Jaguars shot the ball well. The team was 5-for-16 from 3-point range, which looked strong especially compared to Hawkeye shooting.
“That’s when you learn the most, when things aren’t going right, we’re not hitting our shots, we’re turning the ball over,” forward Amanda Ollinger said. “It’s so much better to have those early on than when you start Big Ten season. We’d much rather have those mistakes now so we can fix those mistakes.”
Despite Iowa’s struggles, Gustafson made history in the second quarter becoming only the third player in program history to meet the 2,000-career point mark. She ended the contest with a double-double, putting up 32 points and grabbing 10 boards.
The Hawkeyes finally gained some breathing room and went on a 6-point scoring run in the third quarter to take a 2-point lead entering the fourth. Shooting struggles still plagued the team. Despite open looks, Iowa shot 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the third quarter.
The team inched back into the rebounding game, eventually winning the day with 35 total boards and only 33 coming from the Jaguars.
Gustafson came up big in the fourth quarter, tallying 16 points and giving the Hawkeyes the edge they needed to win the matchup.
“In the second half, our guards weren’t hitting so they were relying on me in the inside,” Gustafson said. “Going into that fourth quarter, I knew that we needed to pull away so I kind of took it upon myself to get myself in the best position.”
Of course, going forward the Hawkeyes need to get the deep ball going. It is hard to win basketball games against top teams if there is no multi-faceted offensive approach.
Given the struggles, that makes it an impressive win.
The Hawkeyes have a break in action now, their next game coming against in-state rival Northern Iowa on Dec. 16.
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