IOWA CITY — Thursday belonged to the posts.
Megan Gustafson more than doubled her career-high for assists, and a ripple effect was a career scoring mark for Chase Coley. As a result, Iowa was able to hold off Penn State, 80-76, in a Big Ten women’s basketball game in front of 5,878 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Our post play tonight was remarkable,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said after the Hawkeyes (19-6 overall, 7-5 Big Ten) won their third consecutive game. “Megan, Chase and Hannah (Stewart) shot 74 percent, the three of them. And the way they passed the ball ... “
Gustafson crafted the 50th double-double of her career and the 23rd this season. She finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds, and for good measure, she tacked on a seven assists. Her previous career-high was three.
Most of them went to Coley on high-low feeds, and Coley added 24 points.
“It was fun to see Megan get those assists,” Coley said. “And it was a lot of fun finishing down low.”
Iowa led from tip to horn, but it got treacherous at the very end.
The Hawkeyes went five minutes without a point and Penn State (14-11, 5-7) cut a 12-point deficit to 75-73 with 2:56 to go.
Gustafson hit two free throws, then Makenzie Meyer grabbed a steal and added another foul shot for a 78-73 advantage. But Teniya Page hit a 3-pointer to make it 78-76 with 36 seconds left, and there was still work to do.
Penn State elected to defend instead of foul. The Hawkeyes milked the shot clock, and Gustafson ended the possession with a bucket with 7 seconds left that turned out to be the dagger.
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“I was expecting them to foul,” Bluder said. “We got the ball to Megan because she’s such a good free-throw shooter. Then they didn’t foul, and it was like, OK.
“It was a broken play. Makenzie was able to find Megan.”
Iowa appeared to be heading toward an easy win when it built a 58-40 lead midway through the third quarter. But Coley and Gustafson were both on the bench for a few minutes, and the Hawkeyes began to sputter somewhat.
“It was probably a mistake not to have at least one of them on the floor at that point,” Bluder said.
Penn State scored the next nine points to creep within 58-49. Iowa steadied itself somewhat until the fourth-quarter drought made it tight.
The Hawkeyes scorched the Lady Lions from the interior in the first half, with Gustafson, Coley and Stewart combining to hit 16 of 19 shots from the field. That trio combined for 38 points before intermission.
Alexis Sevillian started Iowa’s scoring with a 3-pointer, then it was the front-courters doing the vast majority of the damage.
Stewart netted three straight midrange shots — right baseline, left baseline, right baseline — in an 8-0 Iowa run for a 16-4 lead. It was 23-13 after a quarter, 49-34 at halftime.
Gustafson hit 13 of 19 shots Thursday, Coley 9 of 11, Stewart 4 of 5.
“We knew there were going to be traps,” Gustafson said. “Chase did a great job receiving and finishing.”
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The Hawkeyes play at Northwestern at 2 p.m. Sunday. Their next home game is Feb. 18, against Wisconsin.
IOWA 80, PENN STATE 76
At Iowa City
PENN STATE (76): Jaylen Williams 1-2 0-0 2, De’Janae Boykin 1-2 0-0 2, Amari Carter 7-18 0-0 16, Teniya Page 9-22 4-4 23, Jadia Travascio-Green 5-12 0-0 13, Alisia Smith 3-5 3-4 9, Siyeh Frazier 3-8 2-2 8, Kamaria McDaniel 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 30-73 9-10 76.
IOWA (80): Chase Coley 9-11 6-6 24, Megan Gustafson 13-19 7-8 33, Makenzie Meyer 1-7 1-2 4, Alexis Sevillian 1-5 1-2 4, Kathleen Doyle 2-7 0-0 5, Hannah Stewart 4-5 0-0 8, Carly Mohns 0-0 0-0 0, Amanda Ollinger 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 31-56 15-18 80.
Halftime: Iowa 49, PSU 34. 3-point goals: PSU 7-23 (Carter 2-5, Page 1-6, Travascio-Green 3-8, McDaniel 1-4), Iowa 3-13 (Meyer 1-5, Sevillian 1-5, Doyle 1-2, Ollinger 0-1). Team fouls: PSU 19, Iowa 12. Fouled out: Williams. Rebounds: PSU 34 (Smith 8), Iowa 37 (Gustafson 14). Assists: PSU 13 (Carter 4), Iowa 26 (Gustafson, Meyer 7). Steals: PSU 12 (Williams, Frazier 3), Iowa 7 (Doyle 3). Turnovers: PSU 9, Iowa 20.
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