Hawkeye women’s craving for Big Ten title finally over

Iowa women’s basketball craved the Big Ten crown all season, and that desire was clear in the physical matchup with top-seeded Maryland in the Big Ten Championship.


Katina Zentz

Iowa players celebrate the win during the women’s Big Ten Championship basketball game vs. Maryland at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday, March 10, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins 90-76 and are the Big Ten champions.

Pete Mills, Assistant Sports Editor

INDIANAPOLIS – Iowa women’s basketball had a lot of goals this year, but this is the one it craved the most.

The No. 2-seeded Hawkeyes took down the No. 1-seeded Maryland in the Big Ten Championship game on Sunday, 90-76. It was Iowa’s first appearance in the final since 2014.

Both teams brought impressive numbers into the game; Maryland led the conference in scoring margin and field-goal defense on the season, while Iowa paced the conference in scoring offense.

None of that mattered this week to the Hawkeyes. The team practiced cutting down the net all week, head coach Lisa Bluder said, in preparation for the moment they had been waiting for all season.

That moment was deeply craved by the team, and that was obvious from the very beginning of the game.

Forward Hannah Stewart found herself tangled up with Maryland’s Shakira Austin next to the Iowa bench in the first half, with Stewart falling hard to the ground. Slow to get up on an apparent injury to her ankle, it looked as if Stewart’s time in the game – or possibly the season – was over.

Katina Zentz
Megan Gustafson (left), Lisa Bluder (right), and the rest of the Hawkeye women’s basketball team celebrate their victory in the Big Ten Championship game on Sunday, March 9, 2019. Iowa defeated Maryland, 90-76.

But after dealing with Iowa trainers on the sideline for several minutes, the senior jogged back onto the court to a standing ovation from the Iowa crowd.

She went on to add 8 points and 9 rebounds in the matchup on 50 percent shooting the field. After the game, the senior was named a member of the All-Tournament Team.

“When any of us are on the bench, we want to come back in as fast as possible,” Stewart said. “…You never know what’s going to happen, but that just shows what kind of team this is. It takes [all of us] to get this kind of win.”

A similar moment came for Tania Davis later in the first half.

Davis had just knocked down a buzzer-beating floater to end the first quarter and give Iowa a commanding lead.

But as Davis contested a shot from Kalia Charles under the Maryland hoop in the second quarter, she was hit in the face and remained face-down on the hardwood for several minutes. Maryland was in the midst of a comeback-run, so things looked bleak for the Hawkeyes.

The senior missed much of the last two seasons with ACL tears, so nothing was keeping her out of the biggest game of her career.

“She went down hard,” Bluder said. “But she [has] bounced back from back-to-back ACL tears. The kid knows how to be resilient.”

Davis entered the game minutes later with another roar from the Hawkeye crowd. The senior returned to her role as Iowa’s floor general on her way to a 14-point game with 4 assists and 3 steals

“We’re literally out there giving it our all, body parts and everything to win this game,” said Davis. “I think that definitely attests to how hard we fought [and] everything we went through.”

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament – Megan Gustafson – added 45 points and 10 rebounds.

Even with these injuries and roadblocks, one thing drove the Hawkeyes to keep fighting: desire. The net-cutting ceremony went very smoothly since the team had some much-needed practice.

“[We] never believed in anyone telling us ‘no,’” Davis said. “Our destiny was in our own hands and we controlled it.”

Facebook Comments