Stewart continues to do the little things for Hawkeye women

Hannah Stewart has spent her time at Iowa in Megan Gustafson’s shadow. This season, though, she’s finally started to shine.

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Katina Zentz

Iowa forward Hannah Stewart (21) guards Maryland forward Stephanie Jones (24) during the women’s basketball game vs. Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, February 17, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins 86-73.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

For the past two seasons, any discussion about the Iowa women’s basketball team starts and ends with Megan Gustafson.

That’s not without its merits; she is a finalist for National Player of the Year, after all, and just won her second Big Ten Player of the Year honor in a row. However, as she will gladly tell you, Gustafson isn’t the whole team.

A major part of the Hawkeyes’ success these past two seasons has been because of the play of their other senior post player: Hannah Stewart.

While Gustafson had an impact from the moment she walked on campus, Stewart’s path to success was fought behind the scenes for the first two seasons.

“Hannah has worked so hard to get opportunities this year,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “She sits in the background the past couple of years working her tail off and not getting much playing time those first two years.”

Through Stewart’s first two years as a Hawkeye, she saw just 360 minutes of action. To put that in perspective, she had 549 minutes last season as the first player off the bench.

With the little time she had, she put up solid stats, averaging just under 5 points per game with 2.5 rebounds, while averaging 7.8 minutes per contest.

Last season, she was given the opportunity for more playing time and she made the most of it.

Stewart played 17.2 minutes a game last season, and her numbers blossomed to 7.3 points a game and 4.5 boards.

She also showed a knack for getting the defensive stats, swatting away 24 shots and swiping 35 passes.

After former post player Chase Coley graduated, Stewart finally got a chance at a starting role, and she has excelled.

Now up to 28 minutes per game, she is third on the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game and second with 6.3 rebounds.

RELATED:Gustafson earns Big Ten Player of the Year

With that, she has also dished out 2.3 assists per game, averaged a steal per game, and is second on the team in blocks.

Sure, Stewart might not put up gaudy numbers in one category on game day, but she will do a little bit of everything, and those types of players are valuable to teams.

“Everybody has her role, but she’s kind of that person that’s taking care of the garbage,” Gustafson said. “Whether that’s getting a steal here or a block, whatever it is, she’s there, and that’s so important.”

Stewart’s ascension to the starting lineup couldn’t have come at a better time — she has helped the Hawkeyes to a 23-6 record. With her help, they are in position to make a deep run in both the NCAA and Big Ten Tournaments.

Her success, but more importantly, the success of the team, has made this season a special one for Stewart.

“This season in general has been a huge payoff to perseverance and hard work, especially when you don’t see that early on,” she said. “But it’s just been so much fun and such a blast.”

Iowa’s first game in the Big Ten Tournament will come on Friday; the Hawkeyes take on the winner of Thursday’s Minnesota-Indiana contest.

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