Gustafson’s late-game heroics help Hawkeyes

Megan Gustafson has been one of the best players in the Big Ten for the past few years, and now she is starting to per herself all over Iowa’s record books.

Iowa+State+guard+Bridget+Carleton+%2321+tries+to+block+the+shot+of+Iowa+forward+Megan+Gustafson+%2310+during+a+women%27s+basketball+game+against+The+University+of+Iowa+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Wednesday%2C+Dec.+5%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Cyclones+73-70.+

David Harmantas

Iowa State guard Bridget Carleton #21 tries to block the shot of Iowa forward Megan Gustafson #10 during a women's basketball game against The University of Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones 73-70.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

There’s little question about who has been the best basketball player on the Iowa women’s basketball team over the past two seasons: the Hawkeyes’ 6-4 center from Port Wing, Wisconsin, Megan Gustafson.

As she did last year, Gustafson leads the Hawkeyes in points per game (24.3), rebounds per game (12.3), field-goal percentage (75 percent), and blocks (17 total). With the exception of blocks, those numbers are good enough to rank her top 10 nationally.

As she has done throughout her three-plus years at Iowa, Gustafson continues to cause headaches for opposing coaches.

RELATED: By the numbers: Hawkeye women’s basketball

“I don’t think you can stop [Gustafson],’’ Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “I think the best you can do is try to slow her down, but she is surrounded by good skill players as well.’’

The problem has been that coaches can’t even slow her down, especially when they need to most.

While Gustafson has been stellar every minute she’s been on the floor this season, she’s been most effective in the fourth quarter.

In the final quarter, Gustafson averages 8.8 points while shooting a sizzling 83.7 percent from the floor.

Her fourth-quarter heroics this season have helped Gustafson achieve two highly touted milestones over the past week.

On Dec. 5, Gustafson became Iowa’s all-time leading rebounder, surpassing Cindy Haugejorde’s previous mark of 1,067.

It’s only a matter of time before Gustafson gets the points record as well, but that may not mean as much to her as the rebounding record.

“Rebounding has always been a big part of what I do, and that is a record that means a lot to me,’’ she said. “There are a lot of those things as a senior that are going to be part of my season, but mostly my focus is on the team and winning games. That is really the only thing that matters to me.’’

Haugejorde’s record was not easily shattered. That mark had stood for nearly 38 years; with two-thirds of a season left to play, Gustafson’s record isn’t going anywhere soon.

“She’s going to demolish this [record],” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We’re only into Game [9], and this is a record that stood for 40 years in a program like ours. This is a record that’s going to last for a long time.”

Now that Gustafson has climbed Iowa’s rebounding mountain, the next major record Gustafson will try to break is the all-time scoring leader.

She reached the 2,000-point milestone on Dec. 8, joining Haugejorde as the only two players — man or women, to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Sitting at 2,022 points, Gustafson needs only 81 more to break Ally Disterhoft’s record of 2,102 points, a record she set a little under two years ago.

Given that Gustafson averages around 24 points a game, that should mean she breaks the record in either Iowa’s Big Ten opener on Dec. 30 against Michigan State or its conference home-opener on Jan. 3 against Nebraska.

Iowa’s next game will be Dec. 16 in Carver-Hawkeye, when the Hawkeyes take on Northern Iowa for their second out of three in-state rivalry games.

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