IOWA CITY — Things didn’t look good both on the floor and on the bench.
On the floor, the Iowa women’s basketball team found itself trailing Western Kentucky by 10 points with a little over seven minutes remaining Saturday in the championship game of the Hawkeye Challenge at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Ninety seconds later, sophomore guard Kathleen Doyle found herself at the end of the bench being treated for an ankle injury suffered as she scrambled for a rebound.
“We wanted to win it (for Kathleen),” said junior center Megan Gustafson.
And, with Gustafson leading the way, the Hawkeyes did just that. The 6-foot-3 junior center scored a career-high 35 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as Iowa (2-0) outlasted the Hilltoppers, 104-97, in overtime before a crowd of 3,459.
“That was a great victory for our team playing against somebody the caliber of Western Kentucky,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “I thought our team showed tremendous grit tonight. They showed poise in that situation and they believe in it. I’m incredibly proud of these gals.”
Gustafson was named the tournament MVP. She posted double-doubles in both games and took over Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter and overtime, scoring 18 points in the final 15 minutes. She also surpassed 1,000 career points just two games into her junior season.
“I have to credit my teammates and the coaches,” Gustafson said. “They are always there for me. They give me great passes and set up plays for me to get open. I am just appreciative of everything they’ve done for me, and I do it for them..”
It was another balanced effort on offense for Iowa. Five players finished in double figures. Tania Davis had 16 points and nine assists. Doyle was on her way to a possible triple-double before her injury. She finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and joined Gustafson on the all-tournament team.
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Bluder didn’t sound optimistic about Doyle returning soon. The sophomore left the court on crutches following the game.
“It doesn’t look great,” Bluder said of Doyle’s injury. “It’s a high ankle sprain, hard ones to heal, so we don’t know about Wednesday (Iowa’s next game against Northern Illinois).”
With Doyle down, redshirt freshman Alexis Sevillian stepped up. In the final seconds of regulation, she stripped the ball away from Western Kentucky standout Tashia Brown to preserve a tie. Then she hit a 3-point basket 15 seconds into overtime to give Iowa the lead for good.
In 27 minutes, Sevillian scored 11 points and had just one turnover while guarding Brown.
“Her defense was amazing,” Bluder said of Sevillian’s effort “we gave her a really tough defensive assignment and she stepped up and embraced it.”
Mackenzie Meyer bounced back from a rough game on Friday to score 12, including a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation.
“Our (trio) of guards had 23 assists among the three of them,” Bluder said. “That is great team basketball. We shot the ball well from the free throw line (23-of-25) and the 3-point line (11-of-25).”
Western Kentucky’s Tashia Brown and Ivy Brown, who led the Hilltoppers with 31 points before fouling out in overtime, were also part of the all-tournament team. Missouri’s Jordan Frericks and Quinnipiac’s Jen Fay rounded out the selections.
Missouri broke away in the fourth quarter to down Quinnipiac, 66-51, in the consolation game.