IOWA CITY — When Ally Disterhoft became the all-time scoring queen at the University of Iowa, she knew she was merely keeping the throne warm for two years.
“I knew after her sophomore season that Megan (Gustafson) was going to break out into a phenomenal player,” Disterhoft said in a telephone interview last week. “It was just a matter of time.”
And now, the time has come.
An All-American senior post, Gustafson stands eight points away from Disterhoft’s record. She’s a cinch to get it Sunday, when the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes (9-2 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) face No. 22 Michigan State (10-1, 0-0).
Tipoff is noon (Iowa time) at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.; the game will be televised by ESPN2.
A native of Iowa City and a former Miss Iowa Basketball honoree at West High School, Disterhoft scored 2,102 points in an Iowa career that ran from 2013 through 2017. Gustafson stands at 2,094 points after torching Drake for 44 in a win Dec. 21.
“She’s arguably … no, she’s hands-down one of the best players in the nation,” Disterhoft said. “She should be getting more recognition than she is.”
The media selected Gustafson as the 2018 Big Ten player of the year. She has followed that with six conference player-of-the-week honors in seven weeks this season. A native of Port Wing, Wis., Gustafson is averaging 26.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, and leads the nation in field-goal percentage (.747).
The careers of Gustafson and Disterhoft intersected for two seasons.
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“To play with two of the best ever in this program statistically, it’s been great,” said Tania Davis, a senior guard. “I’ve been blessed to play with both of them.
“Ally, her work ethic was second to none. And Megan, what more can you say about her?”
Disterhoft scored 474 points as a freshman, 503 as a sophomore, 565 as a junior and 560 as a senior.
Gustafson started modestly, with 352 points as a rookie. Then she broke out as a sophomore with 628 points, then 823 as a junior. She already owns the record for career rebounds, with 1,116.
If she continues her current pace, her final totals will be somewhere in the range of 2,650 points and 1,400 rebounds. Both could stand for a long time.
“It’s exciting to reach a milestone, but the focus remains on the team, and on winning,” Gustafson said.
Disterhoft said she “had a great relationship with Megan” during their two seasons together.
“She’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. There’s not a mean bone in her body,” Disterhoft said. “Sports can bring out the ugly side of people, but that’s never happened with Megan.”
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Gustafson called Disterhoft “a great competitor” and has carried on one of Disterhoft’s pregame quirks.
“She had a locker-room routine, and I made it my own,” Gustafson said. “She would take a sip of Gatorade, then a sip of water.
“Now I make a habit of doing it too.”
Disterhoft lives in New York City now. She is an investment banking analyst in the consumer retail group at Barclays.
“I really like it,” she said. “The work is stimulating.”
As for basketball:
“I miss parts of it. Now that I’m two seasons removed, some parts seem like it was a lifetime ago, and sometimes I see a score and it feels like yesterday.
“I haven’t been to a ton of (Iowa games). I’ve kept my distance because I don’t want it to appear like I’m hovering, but I’ve kept track of their progress through articles and online.”
She knows Gustafson is closing fast. By the end of Sunday, a new queen will reign at the top of the Iowa women’s basketball scoring chart.
And that’s OK, Disterhoft said.
“Sometimes, if you’re going to have a record broken, you can be a little salty about it,” she said. “But the fact that it’s Megan, I’m very happy for her. She definitely has earned it.”
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