Iowa Women's Basketball

Focused Iowa women's basketball team buries Illinois

Big Ten lead on the line Sunday when Maryland comes calling

IOWA CITY — The crown of the Big Ten’s double-double queen has shifted from Lavender to black and gold.

Megan Gustafson registered 27 points and 17 rebounds, and 13th-ranked Iowa in no way resembled a team looking ahead. The Hawkeyes pasted Illinois, 88-66, in a Big Ten women’s basketball game before a crowd of 6,877 Thursday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“It was really important to focus on this game right here,” Gustafson said. “They had our full focus and effort.”

And now, let the hype begin. The Hawkeyes (20-5 overall, 11-3 Big Ten) host No. 8 Maryland (23-2, 12-2) at noon Sunday.

Win that, and Iowa joins the Terrapins in a first-place tie with three games to go and has the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

“We’re excited about that already,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said, about 63 hours before Sunday’s tipoff.

Gustafson, who made 9 of 11 shots from the field and 9 of 11 from the free-throw line, earned her 78th career double-double, and did it before halftime. That’s a Big Ten career record, surpassing the 77 that Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender assembled between 2007 and 2011.

“That’s pretty cool,” Bluder said.

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Gustafson tweaked an ankle early in the second quarter, hobbled off the floor, then came back about three minutes later.

Makenzie Meyer returned after missing the previous two games with a hyperextended knee. She entered the game with 3 1/2 minutes elapsed, and scored about five seconds later.

Meyer finished with 10 points, seven in the first half.

“It’s always frustrating when you get injured,” Meyer said. “But it could have been a lot worse. I felt like I was back at it tonight.”

The Hawkeyes vowed in their press conference Wednesday that they wouldn’t overlook the last-place Illini (10-15, 2-12). Then they delivered.

Illinois scored the first six points on a pair of 3-pointers by Cierra Rice, but the Hawkeyes answered with eight in a row and didn’t trail again.

Alexis Sevillian’s 3-pointer put the Hawkeyes in front, 11-8, and it was 20-12 after one quarter, 46-34 at halftime.

Tania Davis’ basket gave Iowa its largest lead at 82-52.

Kathleen Doyle posted 12 points, six rebounds and four assists. Davis made all five of her shot attempts and joined Meyer with 10 points, distributing five assists.

Gustafson staked Iowa to a 44-26 rebounding advantage.

“I’m excited about our rebounding,” Bluder said. “We dominated on the boards, and that allowed us to get our transition going.”

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Iowa hit the 20-win mark for the 10th time in the last 12 years. The Hawkeyes still have four regular-season games, then at least one in the Big Ten tournament and at least one more in the postseason.

They are securely in the NCAA Tournament field; Monday’s NCAA reveal show had them as a current No. 3 seed.

Bracketology can wait. The Hawkeyes are in a championship race. The focus shifts to Maryland.

“We’re excited for sure,” Gustafson said. “Obviously, it’s going to be a fun game.”

Alex Wittinger led Illinois with 15 points.

IOWA 88, ILLINOIS 66

At Iowa City

ILLINOIS (66): Alex Wittinger 7-15 0-0 15, Ali Andrews 1-6 0-0 2, Brandi Beasley 3-6 4-4 10, Cierra Rice 3-5 2-2 10, Courtney Joens 1-5 1-2 4, Arieal Scott 2-9 5-5 10, Jaelyne Kirkpatrick 0-3 2-2 2, Lyric Robins 4-5 0-0 8, Mackenzie Blazek 0-2 2-4 2, Sarah Shewan 1-4 0-0 3, Carolyn Waleski 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-60 16-19 66.

IOWA (88): Hannah Stewart 3-8 1-2 7, Megan Gustafson 9-11 9-11 27, Alexis Sevillian 2-6 0-0 6, Tania Davis 5-5 0-0 10, Kathleen Doyle 3-10 6-6 12, Makenzie Meyer 4-6 0-0 10, Amanda Ollinger 2-4 0-2 4, Tomi Taiwo 2-4 1-2 6, Monika Czinano 2-4 1-2 5, Logan Cook 0-0 1-2 1, Zion Sanders 0-0 0-0 0, Paula Valino Ramos 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-58 19-27 88.

Halftime: Iowa 46, Illinois 34. 3-point goals: Illinois 6-20 (Wittinger 1-2, Andrews 0-1, Beasley 0-1, Rice 2-4, Joens 1-3, Scott 1-6, Kirkpatrick 0-1, Robins 0-1, Shewan 1-1), Iowa 5-15 (Sevillian 2-6, Doyle 0-4, Meyer 2-3, Taiwo 1-2). Team fouls: Illinois 21, Iowa 17. Fouled out: Andrews. Rebounds: Illinois 26 (Wittinger 7), Iowa 44 (Gustafson 17). Assists: Illinois 13 (five with 2), Iowa 19 (Davis 5). Steals: Illinois 5 (five with 1), Iowa 4 (four with 1). Turnovers: Illinois 7, Iowa 10.

Attendance: 6,877.

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

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