Hawkeye women dominate inside, top Illinois

In what could have been a trap game for Iowa, the Hawkeyes destroyed Illinois in the paint to come out on top.


Lily Smith

Iowa center Megan Gustafson looks to the basket during the Iowa/Illinois women's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, February 14, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini, 88-66.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Iowa women’s basketball took care of business on Thursday, toppling Illinois, 88-66, in Carver-Hawkeye, and Megan Gustafson did the same thing. Per usual.

Gustafson posted her 23rd double-double of the season with 1:59 left in the first half with 10 points and 10 rebounds on a perfect 4-of-4 from the field.

By the end of the game, the Port Wing, Wisconsin, native had 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 17 boards despite limping off the court and getting looked at by a trainer midway through the second quarter with after an ankle tweak.

It was the 78th double-double of Gustafson’s career, breaking Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender’s Big Ten record for double-doubles in a season.

“It’s pretty cool that she just claimed another one of those records that had stood for quite a while and that she just continues to dominate in the scorebook,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said.

Iowa tried to pull away from Illinois for a good chunk of the first half, but the Illini wouldn’t let the game get out of hand. In the middle of the second quarter, Illinois cut the Hawkeye lead to just seven at 34-27, but Iowa responded with a 7-0 run to make it 41-27 and went into halftime with a 46-34 advantage.

The second half was much of the same. Iowa extended its lead and Gustafson got into a groove, dropping 17 and pulling down 7 boards in the latter half alone.

The Hawkeyes were dominant in all aspects in the win over the Illini. Offensively, they shot 55 percent from the field on their way to 88 points. Defensively, Iowa held Illinois to just 37 percent shooting and 66 points.

With plenty of help from Gustafson, Iowa was dominant in the paint. The Hawkeyes outscored the Illini inside, 48-16, and outrebounded Illinois, 44-26.

“I’m really excited about the rebounding,” Bluder said. “I thought we really dominated the boards. We held them to 21 percent offensive rebounds, where we got 42 percent of offensive rebounds, and that’s pretty significant. It allowed us to get our transition going.”

Outside of Gustafson, Iowa found exceptional play from its guards. Kathleen Doyle, Tania Davis, and Makenzie Meyer all reached double figures in the win.

Doyle finished with 12 points, 4 assists, and 6 boards, Davis racked up 10 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds, and Meyer dropped 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting from deep in her first game back after missing two contests with a hyperextended left knee.

Meyer started practicing on Monday before a day off on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Bluder said, Meyer put in a lot of work and was ready to go by Thursday.

“It’s always frustrating getting injured, but I’m just lucky that I was only out for two games,” Meyer said. “I know it could have been a lot worse… Now, I feel like I’m back at it.”

In what could have been a trap game, the win only proved to be the perfect tune-up for Feb. 17, when the Hawkeyes take on Big Ten-leading Maryland in what will be a war on the floor in Carver-Hawkeye.

“It was really important to just focus on the game that is right here, and that was Illinois,” Gustafson said. “They’re a really good team. They’ve got a really good post player, they’ve got good shooters. They were our full focus and effort right now. Obviously, we’re excited for the next game, but I think our team did a great job of just focusing one game at a time.”

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