Hawkeye women off to fast start against Wolfpack in Sweet 16

Iowa has started its Sweet 16 game in the same fashion as the first and second round.

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Roman Slabach

Iowa center Megan Gustafson (10) looks at the ball during the Iowa/Missouri NCAA Tournament second round women’s basketball game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa on Sunday, March 24, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 68-52.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

GREENSBORO, North Carolina — No. 2 seed Iowa leads No. 3 NC State,  37-24, at halftime of the teams’ Sweet 16 matchup.

The Daily Iowan looks at the big takeaways from the first half of the game.

3-point shooting

Before Saturday’s game, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder expressed her biggest concern regarding the Wolfpack.

“I think they are so good at spot-up 3s,” she said. “I mean 38 percent of their shots are 3s. They shoot the 3-ball very well. [Kiara] Leslie is a great player that is so hard to defend.”

In the first quarter, the Hawkeyes looked the better 3-point shooting team, going 2-of-6 while NC State struggled with a 1-of-4 mark.

That trend carried over into the second quarter with the Wolfpack finishing the half a dismal 2-og-10 from deep.

Iowa couldn’t continue its success from 3, however, and finished 3-of-11.

Veteran vs. freshman

Coming into the game, a highly anticipated matchup was between NC State’s freshman center Elissa Cunnane and Iowa’s Megan Gustafson.

“She has really great hands,” Gustafson said. “Her teammates are feeding her really well inside and she has a great finish, which is always really important in post players. I do see some similarities in myself when I was younger.”

Right out of the gate, it seemed Cunnane would get the better of the matchup – she hit two of her first three shots before Gustafson could even take one, won the rebounding battle, and even ferociously blocked Gustafson’s first shot.

Calm as ever, Gustafson worked her way into the game in the latter part of the quarter, nailing 4 points and grabbing 3 boards, which helped Iowa take control while Cunnane went 0-for-2.

Cunnane got her second foul early in the second quarter and spent most of the rest of the half as a non-factor, while Gustafson continued to dominate.

Gustafson finished the half with 11 points and 6 rebounds on 3-of-3 shooting, while Cunnane totaled just 4 points and 2 rebounds on 2-of-5 shooting.

Biggest takeaway: Iowa has one of the better offenses in the country.

According to Her Hoop Stats, NC State boasts the fourth-best defensive team Iowa has played so far this season, the best since Dec. 5 against Iowa State.

Yet, that would be tough to tell from the first half of this one. Iowa has shot 44.8 percent from the field, including 6-of-7 from the charity stripe.

Gustafson has led the way, but her supporting cast has been the story.

All four other starters have at least 5 points and are led by Kathleen Doyle, who has 7 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals.

Iowa wins this game if: it continues to play good defense

NC State came into this game a defensive team, yet so far, the superior defense has belonged to the Hawkeyes.

They’ve held the Wolfpack to 33.3 percent shooting from the field and have forced 7 turnovers resulting in 6 Iowa points.

Leslie, the Wolfpack’s leading scorer on the season (15.9 points per game), has been held to just 4 points on 1-of-5 shooting so far.

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