Gustafson wraps up career with another stellar performance

Despite a loss to Baylor, Megan Gustafson put up a valiant effort in her final act as a Hawkeye.


Katina Zentz

Iowa center Megan Gustafson is cheered on as she is taken out of her final game during the NCAA Elite 8 game against Baylor at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on Monday, April 1, 2019. The Bears defeated the Hawkeyes 85-53.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

GREENSBORO, N.C. – A career full of bliss ended with tears of anguish for Iowa’s Megan Gustafson on Monday.

Her last act as a Hawkeye was a performance Iowa fans have grown used to, as she scored 23 points with 9 rebounds to make the All-Tournament team. But it wasn’t enough to lift the No. 2 seed Hawkeyes over No. 1 Baylor.

While Gustafson did everything she could to keep her team in the game, her supporting cast failed her for the first time this season.

“I thought that Megan did her part,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I said coming into this game that we needed everybody to contribute, and unfortunately we didn’t get a lot of contribution from other people.”

With Gustafson shooting 9-of-17 from the floor, her teammates managed only 30 points on 9-of-29 shooting.

It was a performance that was indicative of all the sour losses Gustafson had in her career; no matter how poorly her team played, she continued to pour it in.

She put up 27 points and 10 rebounds in Iowa’s loss to Notre Dame earlier this season. She also wowed the Big Ten with her record-breaking 48-point performance in a heartbreaking loss to Minnesota in last year’s Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.

Last season’s NCAA Tournament loss saw her drop 29 points and 17 rebounds in a highly-upsetting loss to Creighton.

Once again Monday night, she was stellar in the face of a ferocious opponent.

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey came under fire for allegedly not respecting Gustafson ahead of Monday’s game, but there was no question the reverence the coach had for the Hawkeye great after the game.

“What a great player Gustafson is,” Mulkey said. “Classy. [Iowa’s] comments were classy the last two days. My heart goes out to them.”

It was a losing effort, but it may have been Gustafson’s most remarkable performance yet. She has battled through physically imposing opponents before, but none brought the physicality Baylor did with Lauren Cox and Kalani Brown inside.

The Bears served Gustafson up with one of the more brutal beatings. Still, Gustafson found a way to impose her own will.

Baylor was just too good.

Monday night shouldn’t be what Iowa fans remember. They should engrave in their memory the records and accolades Gustafson continually put up. She scored her 1,000th point of the season and surpassed 2,800 career points against Baylor. And as always, the grace with which she did it was impeccable.

Above all, she will be remembered for being elegance personified.

“[Megan’s] the best player in the country,” Iowa guard Makenzie Meyer said. “It’s amazing to have played with her, but people don’t realize the type of person she is off the court. One of the best teammates I’ve ever played with, so unselfish, so hard working. We’re going to miss [her].”

In the way only Gustafson could, she left her last postgame press conference as humble as she took her first one.

“I just have to credit my teammates,” Gustafson said. “They’re the ones setting me up at the end of the day. I wouldn’t want on any other team. That’s for sure.”

There will never be another Hawkeye like Gustafson. But once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye.

That will certainly ring true for Gustafson as her No. 10 will be immortalized in the rafters of Carver-Hawkeye in the near future.

For now, Gustafson and the Hawkeyes will take in the tough loss. Later, Iowa fans will fondly remember the four years they got to watch the greatest Hawkeye basketball player of all time.