Team effort pushes Hawkeye women over Terps

Tania Davis and Hannah Stewart kept the Hawkeyes in the game for the first half, but Megan Gustafson took over in the second half.

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Katina Zentz

Iowa guard Tania Davis dribbles the ball past Maryland guard Taylor Mikesell during women’s basketball vs. Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, February 17, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins 86-73.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

In the final two games of last season, Megan Gustafson averaged 38.5 points per game while her team averaged just 41 in two final heartbreaking losses.

Both of those games were win or go home situations, and in both of those games players not named Gustafson struggled to score.

Heading into Sunday’s game against No. 8 Maryland (23-3, 12-3 Big Ten)—arguably the team’s biggest matchup so far this season—they knew much of Maryland’s focus would be on Gustafson which meant everyone else needed to step up.

“We know that everyone is going to come after Megan in the first half,” guard Tania Davis said. “As guards, we have to knock down threes and use the pick-and-roll to our advantage to open things up for Megan in the second half.”

That’s exactly what happened. After the first half, Gustafson found herself with only 4 rebounds and 7 points on 3-of-7 shooting.

For a player who entered the game averaging 13 rebounds and 27.3 points per game on 70.9 percent shooting, that is a rough first half.

“They were just throwing extra bodies at me,” Gustafson said. “They were doing a little box-and-one and doing extra things like that.”

With Gustafson being forced out of the picture for much of the first half, the offensive burden fell to the rest of her team.

Hannah Stewart and Davis were the two who stepped up for the Hawkeyes in the first half, with Davis being a perfect 4-of-4 from the field and knocking down 9 points with 2 assists in the first half.

Stewart did a little bit of everything, racking up 8 points with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal on 4-of-5 shooting.

“We believe in all of our parts,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Part of the guards’ responsibility is to find Megan with great assists, but they also know we have full belief in them in all areas.”

Stewart and Davis played lesser roles in the second half – they combined for 8 points on 2-of-9 shooting after halftime. However, their effort in the first half was a major reason for the tie game heading into the break.

While Stewart and Davis’ contributions were a crucial part of Iowa’s first-half attack, they were less so in the second half as the Gustafson show made a return to center stage.

It didn’t take long. Gustafson promptly came out of halftime to rack up 12 points and 9 rebounds on 3-of-5 shooting in the third quarter, which gave Iowa a 58-50 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“They made a focus of going into her,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese.  “She never stops working, she’s just a matchup nightmare. We were throwing two or three at her and it didn’t make a difference, she’s that talented.”

Her third-quarter run was followed up by an equally solid fourth quarter and helped her finish the game with 31 points, 17 rebounds and an 86-73 win that put her Hawkeyes in first place in the Big Ten.

Next up, the Hawkeyes will travel west to Bloomington, Ind. for a matchup against Indiana (17-9, 6-8 Big Ten) Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.

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