Saturday brings us a showcase game for women’s basketball at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Indiana has won its last eight games. Iowa is on a six-game winning streak after rallying from nine points behind with 4:05 left to win at Rutgers Wednesday. Indiana once was 1-6 in the Big Ten. It’s now 9-6. Iowa once was 4-5 in the conference. It’s now 10-5.
The Hoosiers and Hawkeyes play each other at 11 a.m. Saturday at Carver. They are led by players who, to put it mildly, are sensational.
Indiana has a senior guard named Tyra Buss who will soon be named first-team All-Big Ten for the third-straight season. She is Indiana’s all-time leading scorer with 2,156 points, and her next assist will tie her for IU’s all-time lead in that category.
Iowa junior center Megan Gustafson was on that first team with Buss last year, and will be again this season. In fact, the only way Gustafson isn’t the league’s Player of the Year is if Russia has hacked the voting. In this case, even that probably wouldn’t prevent it.
Buss, listed at 5-foot-8 but perhaps closer to 5-6, averages 21.2 points. That’s 18th-best in the nation. She scored 37 and 36 points in her last two games.
She also is an iron woman. She averages 39.6 minutes per game.
Buss is from Mount Carmel, Ill., a town of about 7,300 people in the eastern part of the state where she was Illinois’ Ms. Basketball in 2013 and 2014. She had 4,897 career points. She averaged 45.8 points and 6.7 steals per game as a senior.
Gustafson averages an NCAA Division I-best 24.9 points, and 12.7 rebounds for the 22-6 Hawkeyes while shooting a league-best 66.5 percent from the field. She has scored 25 or more points in each of Iowa’s last eight games and 20-plus in its last 11.
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She had 18 points at the end of regulation in the Hawkeyes’ 77-67 win at Rutgers Wednesday night. She finished with 27. Along the way in the that game, she broke Iowa’s records for single-season points (698) and rebounds (355). She has 1,678 career points and 923 rebounds with over a full season left.
Gustafson is from Port Wing, Wis., population 364 or thereabouts. It’s as far north as you can go in Wisconsin.
She averaged 40.3 points and 19 rebounds as a senior at South Shore High School. She is Wisconsin’s all-time leading prep scorer with 3,229 points.
Buss and Gustafson are two totally different players, but they probably are very much alike as competitors. They’re certainly both commanding presences on basketball courts, and it will be interesting to see them do what they do on Saturday.