Stellar defense helps Hawkeyes topple Huskers

Defense won Iowa’s rivalry game against Nebraska Monday night, as Megan Gustafson, Makenzie Meyer, and Hannah Stewart racked up personal accolades.

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Jordan Opp/The Daily Nebraskan

Iowa’s Megan Gustafson shoots over Nebraska’s Ashtyn Veerbeek during the matchup at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

No. 12 Iowa (22-6, 13-4 Big Ten) rode two stingy defensive quarters to pick up a 74-58 win over Nebraska (13-15, 8-9 Big Ten) in Lincoln on Monday.

The win equals Iowa’s conference win total from last season, but more importantly, it also clinched a No. 2 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.

A No. 2 seed means the Hawkeyes will have a two-round bye and will need just three wins to make it to the conference championship.

Defense proved to be the key throughout the Hawkeye win. Iowa held Nebraska to 34.8 percent shooting, but it also devastated the Huskers on the boards with a plus-13 rebounding margin.

Lockdown defense helped Iowa hold Nebraska to a 10-point second quarter and an 11-point fourth. It was clear the Hawkeyes held the advantage in both.

The last time Iowa held a team to a shooting night under 35 percent was at the beginning of the month when the Hawkeyes held Penn State to 33.8 percent on Feb. 3

“We locked in on defense,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said in a release. “We held them to 58 points, 10 points in the second quarter, and 11 in the fourth quarter. Our defense was pretty darn good.”

As always, Megan Gustafson commanded attention for Iowa, and while she did get her typical double-double, this one was especially special.

Not only did she reach double figures in both rebounds and points, but she set a career-high with 20 rebounds and poured in 29 points for the first 20-20 performance of her career.

Gustafson was supported primarily by Hannah Stewart and Tania Davis. Stewart posted the first double-double of her career with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Davis dropped in 14 points and 5 boards.

Makenzie Meyer and Kathleen Doyle might not have totaled a great number of points (they combined for 15), but they helped whiz the ball around on offense, collecting 18 assists. Meyer set a career-high as well, racking up 10 dimes.

“Hannah and Megan don’t score unless [Meyer], Tania, and Kathleen get them the ball,” Bluder said in a release.

Basketball is like most sports, where the flashy offensive numbers are often what tells the story of the game, but that wasn’t the case on Monday.

It was the other side of the ball that really shone, evidenced further by flipping the box score over to the Nebraska side, where just one player – not a starter – shot better than 50 percent from the floor. Several Huskers found themselves with more missed buckets than total points.

The Hawkeyes were successful defensively because they were able to shut down every single player, which helped Iowa hold Nebraska to the second-least points it has allowed on the road.

Next, the Hawkeyes will be back in Carver-Hawkeye for Senior and Alumni Day on March 3 for their final regular-season game against Northwestern, with tipoff coming at 3 p.m.

“It was mentioned in our locker room afterwards, just one game left,” Bluder said in a release. “Our seniors were like, ‘Don’t say that.’ I don’t think anyone wants to see this season come to an end because they are having so much fun together.”

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