Hawkeye basketball looks for Megan Gustafson’s Robin

There’s no question that Megan Gustafson is one of the nation’s best players, but for the Hawkeyes to be successful, they need those around her to step up.


Lily Smith

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson attempts a shot during the Iowa/Penn State basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

Last season, Iowa women’s basketball had a breakout season.

It finished 24-8 (13-3 Big Ten) and broke a rare two-year absence from the NCAA Tournament.

Megan Gustafson led the charge for Iowa and finished top in the country in numerous categories. She was named an All-American and Co-Big Ten Player of the Year.

Despite the successful regular season, the Hawkeyes faltered in March, going just 1-2 in the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

Much of that was due to the lack of production by everybody not named Gustafson.

If more success in March is on the list of goals for Iowa, it is going to need more from Gustafson’s supporting cast. In the Hawkeye’s final two losses last season, Gustafson accounted for 48.4 percent of Iowa’s points.

Furthermore, she was far more effective than her teammates, shooting an unbelievable 73.8 percent from the field. Her teammates averaged just 33.7 percent in those games.

Those are numbers that Iowa can’t sustain if it wants to prove to the country that it is worthy of its top-15 ranking.

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Not only that, but the better Gustafson’s teammates play, the easier it is for Gustafson.

“If we can make shots on the outside, then it’s going to open up the inside for Megan,” guard Makenzie Meyer said. “Megan’s already established that she can score like crazy down low, so it gives us a lot of open opportunities on the perimeter so we need to do our part and try to open up the middle.”

One player who figures to have a major effect this season is senior Tania Davis, who is coming off a second-straight season in which she tore an ACL.

She provides a calming presence for the Iowa offense, and that should be a big help to Gustafson’s support group.

“I think people forget how good Tania is because she hasn’t been in the last two full seasons,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. She’s our X factor. She’s one of our best 3-point shooters, she’s an amazing passer, and [for her] to have an injury-free year would be terrific.”

Meyer is another player who figures to be a nice Gustafson alternative; she put up impressive numbers last season, averaging 10.8 points a game with 4.3 assists.

She’s known for her shooting ability — for her career, she shoots 40.3 percent behind the arc as a Hawkeye. This season, she wants to complement her shooting ability by driving in the lane a bit more.

RELATED: Gustafson leads Hawkeyes into season of big expectations

“She’s a sniper out there,” guard Kathleen Doyle said. “I think she’s really gained some confidence in the preseason, and we’re hoping it carries over to the rest of the season.”

Along with a couple of key starters this season, the Hawkeyes also boast a much better bench than they had a year ago.

With just 11 players — two of whom were true freshmen — the Hawkeyes had trouble giving starters much of a break, especially when some injuries battered it to start the Big Ten season.

This season, the Hawkeyes have 13 players on the roster and hope to have more contributions from the bench mob.

“It is a lot deeper,” forward Hannah Stewart said. “That’s really exciting. That means that if you’re a starter, you won’t play the whole game, and we’re going to have some really good backups coming in.”

Gustafson and her supporting cast will have their first flash of the season at 7 p.m. today in an exhibition game against Dakota Wesleyan at Carver-Hawkeye.