IOWA CITY — Megan Gustafson was named a finalist for the Naismith Award on Friday morning. She didn’t do anything to hurt her candidacy in the afternoon.
Gustafson made her first 13 shots, registering 30 points and 16 rebounds as eighth-ranked Iowa escaped Mercer, 66-61, in an NCAA women’s basketball first-round game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Makenzie Meyer added 16 points, Hannah Stewart added 12, and the Hawkeyes (27-6) avoided what would have been a catastrophic loss.
The Hawkeyes rallied from a four-point fourth-quarter deficit and advanced to face Missouri (24-10) in the second round Sunday at a time to be determined. The winner advances to the Sweet 16 next weekend at Greensboro, N.C.
Iowa won its first NCAA game since its 2015 Sweet 16 run, despite 24 turnovers. Mercer had only three.
The Hawkeyes won their sixth consecutive game; it’s their longest winning streak of the season. They also halted Mercer’s 17-game win streak.
The Bears retired at 25-8. They started 1 of 10 and 2 of 16 from the field.
Gustafson scored nine points in the first six minutes as Iowa ran off to a 14-4 lead. Mercer got within 16-12 by the end of the quarter.
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Makenzie Meyer was 4 of 6 from long distance in the first half. Her trey gave the Hawkeyes their largest lead of the half at 30-19. Then, after the Bears got within 32-27, Meyer nailed a 3-pointer from the left baseline to put Iowa up eight at intermission.
Mercer crept within one point on six occasions in the third quarter, then Shannon Titus’ basket at the horn gave the Bears their first lead, 51-50.
KeKe Calloway’s 3-pointer gave the Bears their largest lead, 56-52, with 7:03 to go, when hit another to beat the shot clock and give Mercer a 59-57 edge.
But Hannah Stewart scored six of Iowa’s next seven points as the Hawkeyes wriggled away.
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