Iowa rolls In Big Ten tourney

Iowa+forward+Megan+Gustafson+blocks+a+shot+from+Northwestern+forward+Bryana+Hopkins+during+the+Iowa%2FNorthwestern+Big+Ten+tournament+basketball+game+at+Bankers+Life+Fieldhouse+in+Indianapolis+on+Thursday%2C+March%2C+1%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Wildcats%2C+55-45.+Iowa+takes+on+No.4+Minnesota+on+Friday.+%28Lily+Smith%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Iowa rolls In Big Ten tourney

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson blocks a shot from Northwestern forward Bryana Hopkins during the Iowa/Northwestern Big Ten tournament basketball game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, March, 1, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 55-45. Iowa takes on No.4 Minnesota on Friday. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson blocks a shot from Northwestern forward Bryana Hopkins during the Iowa/Northwestern Big Ten tournament basketball game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, March, 1, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 55-45. Iowa takes on No.4 Minnesota on Friday. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Lily Smith

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson blocks a shot from Northwestern forward Bryana Hopkins during the Iowa/Northwestern Big Ten tournament basketball game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, March, 1, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 55-45. Iowa takes on No.4 Minnesota on Friday. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson blocks a shot from Northwestern forward Bryana Hopkins during the Iowa/Northwestern Big Ten tournament basketball game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, March, 1, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 55-45. Iowa takes on No.4 Minnesota on Friday. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

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The Iowa women’s basketball team wanted a fast start to open the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in Indianapolis, and the Hawkeyes got just that when they finished the first quarter with a 22-1 lead.

While they were unable to maintain a 21-point lead, they never let the Wildcats come closer than 5 in their 55-45 victory.

The first quarter has been huge for the Hawkeyes during their eight-game winning streak; they’ve outscored opponents, 169-88, during those opening quarters.

It’s a punch-first mentality that has helped their strong starts.

“We were ready to come out punching,” guard Makenzie Meyer said. “Our goal was to get a lot of stops on defense right away. Nothing was really falling for them, so it played to our advantage big-time.”

The first quarter was all Iowa. Other than a made free throw, Northwestern was unable to put the ball in the hoop.

However, the Wildcats rallied a bit in the second quarter, outscoring the Hawkeyes, 19-9, to bring the lead down to 10 points.

A grind-it-out defensive third quarter set the stage for a competitive fourth. What made matters worse for the Hawkeyes was Megan Gustafson picking up her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter.

Riding a 9-1 run, Northwestern cut the lead to 5 with just under four minutes to play, prompting head coach Lisa Bluder to call a timeout.

It appeared to be a well-timed; Iowa held Northwestern without a field goal for the rest of the game.

“It’s kind of a gut check sometimes,” Bluder said about the timeout. “They understand what they have to do. It wasn’t anything that we chanced defensively, it was just a point of we’ve got five minutes left, let’s play great defense.”

RELATED: Hawkeye defense smothers Wildcat offense

Bluder’s well-timed timeout certainly helped motivate Iowa’s defense, but it was stellar all game, holding Northwestern to 27.4 percent from the floor.

The Hawkeyes are one of the higher scoring teams in the Big Ten, but oddly enough, the offense was lacking for Iowa.

With just 55 points, it was Iowa’s lowest scoring output on the season. More unusual was a low-scoring output from Gustafson, the recently-named Big Ten Player of the Year.

She had a season-low 12 points on just eight shots, and for just the fourth time this season, she failed to snare double-digit rebounds.

“I don’t remember the last time we won a game where Megan only had eight shots,” Bluder said. “It’s nice, actually, it’s good for other people to understand that they need to step up in those situations.”

Foul trouble and a tough defensive performance from the Wildcats contributed to Gustafson’s less-than-stellar performance. But rather than being disappointed in her performance, Gustafson praised her team’s performance.

“I got into some foul trouble today,” she said. “It’s really nice to be able to depend on my outside shooters. I love the team basketball that we played today, and I’m just excited to move forward.”

With Gustafson being contained, scoring was balanced for the Hawkeyes, with five players putting up at least 8 points.

Meyer was the point leader for Iowa, putting up 13 points while handing out 3 assists and grabbing 2 rebounds.

Now, Iowa has fewer than 24 hours to prepare for its next opponent, Minnesota. The game will take place 25 minutes after the conclusion of the Ohio State-Purdue game today.

 

 

 

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