Iowa Women's Basketball

Iowa trips Maryland for Big Ten women's basketball tournament championship

Megan Gustafson scores 45, Hawkeyes claim first title since 2001 with 90-76 win

The Iowa Hawkeyes celebrate their Big Ten women’s basketball tournament championship after beating Maryland, 90-76, Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianpolis. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)
The Iowa Hawkeyes celebrate their Big Ten women’s basketball tournament championship after beating Maryland, 90-76, Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianpolis. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS — When she was driving her car around campus, Megan Gustafson saw confetti.

When she was walking to class, she imagined cutting down a net.

“I have visualized this for four years,” Gustafson said.

She touched the bill of her newly earned hat, with a hunk of net intertwined.

“I’m not taking this off for a long time,” she said. “I’ll probably sleep with it on tonight.”

Sweet dreams, Megan.

Gustafson scored 45 points to earn MVP honors, and 10th-ranked Iowa clipped No. 8 Maryland, 90-76, to capture the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament championship Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

After the game and before she ascended a ladder to cut the final strand of the net, Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder addressed her team on the podium:

“For the rest of your life, ladies, you are Big Ten champions. It’s something nobody can ever take away from you.”

The Hawkeyes (26-6) won their third tournament championship, their first since 2001. That was Bluder’s first season at Iowa.

“It’s just pure elation right now,” said Hannah Stewart, who joined Gustafson on the all-tournament team, along with Maryland’s Kaila Charles, Indiana’s Ali Patberg and Rutgers’ Stasha Carey.

Charles scored 36 points to pace Maryland (28-4), and at times, it seemed she and Gustafson were playing H-O-R-S-E out there.

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Gustafson was 17 of 24 from the field, 11 of 14 from the line and grabbed 10 rebounds. She finished the tournament with 95 points and 39 boards in three games.

She hit two more even-numbered milestones Sunday, becoming the 33rd player in NCAA Division-I history to reach 2,700 career points and the 20th to surpass 1,400 rebounds.

“She’s the GOAT, there’s no denying that,” Iowa’s Kathleen Doyle said. “We’ve been working hard for this all season. There are no words to describe it.”

The Hawkeyes cut down a net at Carver-Hawkeye Arena after practice Tuesday. Then, five days later, simulation was trumped by reality.

Iowa built a 14-point lead in the first half, then Maryland whittled away and tied it, 53-53, on Charles’ basket with 7:21 left in the third quarter.

But as they’ve done all weekend long, the Hawkeyes answered.

Oh-for-7 from the field to start the third quarter, Iowa reclaimed the lead on Gustafson’s basket, and it triggered a 16-7 push to conclude the period for a 69-60 advantage.

Davis opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 72-60, and the margin stayed in double figures the rest of the way.

“We knew Maryland was going to go on some runs,” Doyle said. “We just had to stay strong out there.”

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Davis added 14 points for the Hawkeyes, Doyle scored 13 and Stewart registered eight points and nine rebounds.

Maryland is coached by Cedar Rapids native Brenda Frese and was playing in its fifth straight final. The Terrapins won titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017, now have settled for second two straight years. Charles was the lone Terrapin player to reach double figures.

The first half was frenetic. Gustafson scored 26 points, Charles had 22 and Iowa took a 51-45 lead into intermission.

Gustafson was the only Iowa starter not burdened by fouls (Stewart, Meyer and Doyle had two) or temporary pain (Stewart was out for a brief stretch after landing in the Iowa bench; Davis suffered a shot to the head under the basket) in the first half.

The NCAA tournament bracket will be revealed Monday, March 18. Iowa figures to be a 2 seed, and the Hawkeyes hope even bigger things are on the horizon.

“Tania, Megan and me ... this is our last shot,” Stewart said. “I don’t want this ever to end.”

IOWA 90, MARYLAND 76

Big Ten Tournament Championship, at Indianapolis

IOWA (90): Hannah Stewart 3-6 2-2 8, Megan Gustafson 17-24 11-14 45, Makenzie Meyer 2-4 1-2 7, Tania Davis 2-7 9-10 14, Kathleen Doyle 5-11 2-2 13, Amanda Ollinger 0-0 0-0 0, Alexis Sevillian 1-5 0-0 3, Monika Czinano 0-0 0-0 0, Zion Sanders 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-58 25-30 90.

MARYLAND (76): Stephanie Jones 2-5 0-0 4, Channise Lewis 2-4 1-2 5, Kaila Charles 15-30 6-7 36, Taylor Mikesell 2-9 2-2 6, Blair Watson 3-6 0-0 8, Shakira Austin 2-5 2-2 6, Brianna Fraser 0-0 2-4 2, Sara Vujacic 2-5 0-0 5, Olivia Owens 2-3 0-0 4, Sarah Myers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-68 13-17 76.

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Halftime: Iowa 51, Maryland 45. 3-point goals: Iowa 5-12 (Meyer 2-4, Davis 1-3, Doyle 1-2, Sevillian 1-2, Sanders 0-1), Maryland 3-13 (Lewis 0-1, Mikesell 0-4, Watson 2-4, Vujacic 1-3, Myers 0-1). Team fouls: Iowa 16, Maryland 26. Fouled out: Jones, Austin, Owens. Rebounds: Iowa 36 (Gustafson 10), Maryland 35 (Charles 9). Assists: Iowa 21 (Meyer 5), Maryland 18 (Lewis 11). Steals: Iowa 10 (Doyle 4), Maryland 10 (Watson 6). Turnovers: Iowa 15, Maryland 16.

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

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