Bluder: Still room for Megan Gustafson to improve

Women's basketball: Iowa coach wants post to be Big Ten's best in 2017-18

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IOWA CITY — At some point shortly after the season ends, Lisa Bluder will compile a list of items for each of her returning players to work on, improvements that must be made before the 2017-18 season begins.

Megan Gustafson’s list will consist of ... ?

“I’m not going to share that now,” Bluder said. “But I know that whatever is there, Megan will go after it.”

After Saturday’s masterpiece — 33 points (on 15-of-16 field-goal shooting) and 13 rebounds in a win over South Dakota — it’s hard to envision much more out of the sophomore post.

But Bluder sees room for growth.

“I think she should be the best post in the Big Ten next year,” she said. “She should be on everybody’s all-American list. I was surprised she wasn’t there this year.”

Gustafson figures to be the center of attention again Thursday, when the Hawkeyes (19-13) host Colorado (17-15) in a WNIT third-round women’s basketball game.

Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“We knew there was going to be an advantage (against South Dakota), and my teammates did a great job setting me up,” Gustafson said.

“South Dakota and Colorado are similar teams, and it looks like we might have an advantage again.”

Thursday’s winner advances to face UC-Davis or Washington State in a quarterfinal (Saturday, Sunday or Monday at a time and site to be determined).

Gustafson came to Iowa out of a tiny high school along the shore of Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. She was a member of the all-Big Ten freshman team, then blossomed further this season.

Her numbers have improved dramatically across the board, in scoring (10.7 points per game to 18.7), rebounding (6.9 per game to 10.0), field-goal percentage (.554 to .649) and free-throw percentage (.615 to .794).

“It’s amazing, how far she has come,” Bluder said.

In Colorado, the Hawkeyes will be facing a ball-pressuring crew that ranks 10th in the nation in steals.

“They try to play frantic defense,” Iowa point guard Kathleen Doyle said. “They make the pace fast and speed people up, so we’ve got to stay composed.”

Sophomore guard Kennedy Leonard leads the Buffaloes at 17.4 points, 5.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game.

Colorado’s record is somewhat misleading. The Buffaloes reside in a Pac-12 Conference that has five teams in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA.

“They have some significant wins: Oregon, California, Kentucky,” Bluder said.

Colorado defeated UNLV and South Dakota State in the first two rounds of the WNIT.

“They’re a very talented team. We’ll have to be ready to go,” said Ally Disterhoft, the Hawkeyes’ all-time leading scorer.

“Any game at Carver is special. As a senior, I’m thankful for every for every opportunity I get, because I know time is winding down.”

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