Iowa Women's Basketball

'Unbreakable' Iowa Hawkeyes bent, but never buckled in Big Ten tournament

When the going got tough, all weekend, the Hawkeyes got rolling

Iowa's Hannah Stewart celebrates the Hawkeyes' 90-76 win over Maryland in the Big Ten women's basketball tournament final Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today)
Iowa's Hannah Stewart celebrates the Hawkeyes' 90-76 win over Maryland in the Big Ten women's basketball tournament final Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today)

INDIANAPOLIS — Hannah Stewart took a hard dive into the Iowa bench.

Tania Davis took a shot to the head and landed under the basket, not moving for moments before finally getting up.

Stewart, Kathleen Doyle and Makenzie Meyer all picked up two first-half fouls, and that generally means a one-way ticket to the bench for the rest of the half.

None of it mattered.

“We’re unbreakable,” Kathleen Doyle said after 10th-ranked Iowa upended No. 8 Maryland, 90-76, for the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament championship Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“Tough times are going to come. And if we just stay together, nobody can break us.”

The Hawkeyes (26-6) faced a crossroads in each of their three games here this week.

 In the quarterfinals, Indiana rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to take a 54-53 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Tania Davis hit a critical 3-pointer to put Iowa up for good, then Doyle shrugged off what had been a rough game, suddenly making key plays on both ends of the floor. The Hawkeyes won, 70-61.

 In the semifinals, Iowa saw a 20-point lead slide to three on three occasions. Again, it was Davis with the rally-killing 3-pointer, and the Hawkeyes prevailed, 72-67.

 In the championship, Maryland (28-4) climbed out of a 14-point hole to tie it, 53-53, with 7:21 left in the third quarter. Iowa responded with a 16-7 run to reclaim control at 69-60, Davis opened the fourth quarter with yet another huge 3-pointer, and the Hawkeyes’ lead stayed in double digits the rest of the way.

Megan Gustafson rightfully was the tournament MVP — she had 95 points and 39 rebounds in the three games — but there were plenty of key plays to go around.

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“You know, if you stop one, they know how to go to their other options,” said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, a Cedar Rapids native.

“(Gustafson) is just that good. I mean, she’s just that good. But all the supporting cast hurt us. I just think Iowa is a great team.”

And now, a championship team.

The oncourt postgame interview session was dying down, and Carrie Underwood’s voice boomed from the speakers.

Wide-eyed, Doyle grabbed a reporter by the arm.

“Listen, that’s us!” she exclaimed.

Invincible. Unbreakable. Unstoppable. Unshakable.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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