IOWA CITY — It’s being taken for granted, yet it would be ridiculous to do so.
Megan Gustafson scored 36 points and had 15 rebounds for Iowa Saturday in its 75-62 women’s basketball win over Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Were it a one-game, everything-came-together performance, that would be one thing. But this was Gustafson’s seventh game with at least 33 points and ninth straight game with 25-plus. It also was her ninth game of at least 15 rebounds.
In Big Ten games, the junior from Port Wing, Wis., averages 27.3 points and 13 rebounds. Averages! She leads the nation in scoring and is fifth in rebounding.
Ohio State senior guard Kelsey Mitchell became the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer last month. She averages 24.5 points, second nationally. People like to honor seniors over non-seniors if a Player of the Year award is arguable. But Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder thinks this season’s choice is clear-cut, and it’s Gustafson.
“If she doesn’t get everybody’s All-Big Ten award, I just don’t understand,” Bluder said. “I don’t understand what people are looking at. This is not a career award. This is this season’s award. I think she’s very deserving of that.”
Two things head the list of reasons to watch Gustafson, which 6,921 fans did Saturday. For one, she hasn’t seen a potential rebound she didn’t like. For another, she catches great, good and mediocre passes and then bewilders opponents with post moves.
“Just chuck it to her,” said Hawkeye guard Makenzie Meyer. “She’ll catch it.”
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“Yeah, I don’t know how she catches some of the passes I make to her,” added Iowa senior forward Chase Coley.
“Sometimes I like to think I’m a pretty good passer, but sometimes I’m like ‘Go get it’ and she does. She makes some amazing finishes. It’s fun to watch. It’s like ‘Yeah, she’s my teammate.’ ”
But Gustafson would say talking about her numbers and qualities are missing the story of what happened here Saturday and in February.
Iowa capped a 7-0 month, and closed the regular season with gaudy records of 11-5 in the Big Ten and 23-6 overall. Beating Indiana was nothing to discount, with the Hoosiers coming here on an eight-game win streak.
“February was a great month for us,” Gustafson said. “We had a lot of close wins. We battled and finished.”
What makes her eye-popping stats better is they come within the framework of team play and passing. The Hawkeyes began the game ranked third nationally in assists per game. Gustafson makes that number go up. But more importantly, it’s the way she and her teammates play the game.
“Megan does not get those baskets without her teammates delivering great passes to her,” Bluder said.
“Yes, Megan’s an All-American. This is a team. She’ll be the first one to tell you that.”
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Coley is an integral part of the team. Saturday’s win added to the sweetness of the Senior Day postgame ceremony she shared with teammate Carly Mohns.
Coley came here from Minneapolis and became a forward who does some of almost everything. In this game, she had 12 points, six rebounds, five assists. Good player.
Four years ago, her father said, he and his oldest daughter were in the Carver stands watching Iowa’s Senior Day.
“I thought ‘We’ll do that one day,’ Tylor Coley said. “But it flashed by. Here we are saying goodbye.”
Except that the daughter says “Not yet.”
“I try not to get too sad,” Coley said. “I try to remember there’s still so much more of this season left to play.”
The Hawkeyes now head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten tourney, and will probably start play next Thursday as the 5th-seed against the winner of Wednesday’s game between the league’s 12th and 13th seeds. After Indy comes the NCAA tournament.
“We’re not even close to being done yet,” Coley said.
But keep this in mind for next winter: Gustafson and several talented teammates will be back. Points will be scored. Games will be won.