Elite team effort lifts Hawkeyes over Wolfpack

Megan Gustafson may have tied the NCAA record for double-doubles in a season, but Iowa’s Sweet 16 win over NC State was a team effort.


Katina Zentz

Iowa players celebrate the win after the NCAA Sweet 16 game against NC State at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on Saturday, March 30, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolfpack 79-61.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

GREENSBORO, North Carolina — It didn’t take long for No. 2 seed Iowa to prove itself elite against No. 3 NC State in Saturday’s Sweet 16 victory.

The Hawkeyes pulled away early, and other than a small run in the third, Iowa was able to completely control the whole game on its way to a 79-61 win.

The Hawkeyes’ authority on the game was due in large part, not to the play of star forward Megan Gustafson, but the play of the rest of the team.

Not that Gustafson had an off night; she still poured in 27 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. However, every other starter for Iowa had at least 9 points.

“Gustafson, obviously, an awesome player,” NC State head coach Wes Moore said. “Then [it] felt like the rest of the team really had a great game around her. When they are hitting 3s and [Gustafson] does what she does on the block, it’s a tough matchup.”

A lot of Iowa’s balanced offense came from efficient passing. Of its 31 made baskets, 24 were assisted on.

Racking up the assists is nothing new for Iowa — it averages 21.7 per game (second nationally) and 71.3 percent of its shots are assisted (third nationally) — but it’s the fact that those assists went to more than just Gustafson that makes it noteworthy.

Iowa’s guards, Kathleen Doyle (9 points, 8 assists), Tania Davis (10 points, 6 assists), and Makenzie Meyer (9 points, 4 assists), swung the ball around the court and combined for 28 points and 18 assists.

They also got the ball inside where Gustafson dominated, and if she needed help, she passed it to an ever-open Hannah Stewart, who took advantage of NC State’s hyper-focus on Gustafson.

Stewart and Gustafson got the bulk of Iowa’s points, but each handed out their fair share of assists as well. Gustafson had 4 assists, while Stewart posted 16 points, 11 boards, and 2 assists.

Their performances was the result of a well-executed high-low game that the duo has perfected over their four years together.

“We just know each other,” Stewart said. “I know where Megan wants the ball on the high-low, and I know even if I don’t hit her there, she’s going to catch it most of the time.”

It wasn’t just the starters who contributed Saturday, as the bench also chipped in.

They’re not a bunch that gets a lot of minutes, and that was no exception against NC State. The bench played a total of 31 minutes but made the most of it.

Alexis Sevillian and Amanda Ollinger played 23 of the minutes off the bench and both hit shots in the third quarter during Iowa’s rough patch.

The biggest shot from the pair came midway through the third after the Wolfpack had cut the Hawkeye lead down to 5 and Iowa was struggling to score.

Sevillian knocked down a 3 to get Iowa back on track, and it never looked back from there.

“Lexie just stays ready,” Davis said. “She’s always confident in her shot, she’s always working, and I’m so proud of her. For her to hit that shot, it’s not a surprise to me, but I’m happy for her.”

Now, Iowa’s starting five will look to keep their hot shooting stroke going into Monday’s Elite Eight matchup against the winner of the Baylor-South Carolina game. Monday’s game will be broadcasted on ESPN at 6 p.m.