Hawkeye guards assisting Gustafson during strong season

Megan Gustafson scores points, grabs rebounds, and collects awards while her guards hand out assists.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa guard Tania Davis looks to pass during a women’s basketball matchup between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 72-66.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

For those following Iowa women’s basketball the past two seasons, it’s hard to think of anyone other than Megan Gustafson being the star.

This isn’t without good reason; she has deserved all the attention and honors she has received. However, Gustafson’s accolades can drown out the talent around her.

As a post player with no outside shot or ability to create her own shot like a guard, Gustafson has to rely on her teammates to navigate their passes through a forest of defenders.

That’s why a great passer has accompanied every great center. Karl Malone had John Stockton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had Magic Johnson, and Gustafson has the trio of Makenzie Meyer, Kathleen Doyle, and Tania Davis.

“Iowa’s guards are outstanding,” Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “They know their roles so well, and they work with precision. They understand how to hit [Gustafson].”

The Hawkeyes’ precision passing has been a staple of coach Lisa Bluder’s offense for the past two seasons. Last season, the Hawkeyes finished third in the country with 21.4 assists per game.

Lily Smith
Iowa center Megan Gustafson attempts a shot during the Iowa/Purdue women’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 27, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Boilermakers, 72-58.

Iowa has been even better this year. Through 22 games, the squad has averaged 22.2 assists per game, good enough for second in the nation.

A majority of those assists are capped off by Gustafson catching the pass, turning, and shooting in one motion. It’s no wonder she won’t accept a compliment without acknowledging her coaches and teammates. 

RELATED: Gustafson shatters Big Ten record with 20th Player of the Week honor 

While Gustafson’s style of play is a significant reason for the Hawkeyes’ high assist numbers, the team culture might have more of an influence.

“None of us care how many points we score,” Davis said. “We’re very unselfish, and we want to see each other succeed. We get more excited when one of our teammates scores than when we score. That is what brings out the best in us — that joy and ball movement around the floor. Passing is what we love to do.”

The team’s indifferent attitude toward individual stats can be seen in Iowa’s individual assist numbers. All seven of the Hawkeyes in the typical rotation (players averaging at least 15 minutes per game) have recorded 6 assists in a game at least once and Meyer, Doyle, and Davis all average at least 4 assists per game.

Davis leads the team in with 4.8 per game, but recently, Doyle has led the assist charge. She started off the season with a leg injury and missed the first seven games. Although she saw relatively normal minutes, she admits it was tough coming back at first.

“Took a little bit once I got back to get my legs back under me,” she said. “But I feel like I’m really in better shape, and I’m good to go. As long as they need me, I’m in there.”

Since the start of the Big Ten season, Doyle has lasered passes all around the court to the tune of 6.1 assists per game, good enough to tie her for first in the Big Ten since the start of conference play.

“We play such a team game, and it is fun to play that way,” Doyle said. “We take great pride in assists.”