Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

2019 NCAA TOURNAMENT

Iowa smokes NC State, reaches first Elite 8 since 1993

Hawkeyes will face No. 1 Baylor on Monday for a spot in the Final Four

Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (10) acknowledges her family and fans as she comes out of the game late in the fourth quarter of their NCAA women’s basketball regional-semifinal game Saturday morning at Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, N.C. The Hawkeyes won, 79-61, and will face Baylor on Monday with a trip to the Final Four on the line. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (10) acknowledges her family and fans as she comes out of the game late in the fourth quarter of their NCAA women’s basketball regional-semifinal game Saturday morning at Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, N.C. The Hawkeyes won, 79-61, and will face Baylor on Monday with a trip to the Final Four on the line. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — April basketball. No fooling.

“It feels magical. We’re definitely peaking at the right time,” Makenzie Meyer said after eighth-ranked Iowa answered a third-quarter flurry by No. 10 North Carolina State and won 79-61 in a regional semifinal of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Saturday at Greensboro Coliseum.

“We’re turning heads,” added Megan Gustafson. “We’re showing the entire nation what Iowa basketball is about.”

Iowa (29-6) advances to face No. 1 Baylor (34-1) — a 93-68 winner over No. 18 South Carolina — in a regional final at 6 p.m. CT Monday.

The winner moves on to the Final Four April 5-7 at Tampa, Fla.

“I don’t care who we play,” Tania Davis said. “I’m just looking forward to playing Monday.”

The Hawkeyes are in the Elite Eight for the fourth time, the first since their Final Four season of 1993. The 29 wins match a program best; the 1987-88 team went 29-2.

This will be the first Iowa team to play into April.

“We’re excited to take our coaches to the Elite Eight,” Hannah Stewart said. “I’m happy for them. We’re still hungry. We want to go to Tampa.”

Gustafson registered 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes, and moved within 22 points of becoming the fourth Division-I player to score 1,000 in a season. Stewart had a double-double of her own — 16 points and 10 boards — and Davis netted 10 points and six assists.

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Meyer and Kathleen Doyle scored nine apiece, with Doyle dishing out eight of Iowa’s 24 assists.

Iowa built a 13-point halftime lead. Then, after North Carolina State (28-6) carved it to 43-38 in the third quarter, Alexis Sevillian ended the threat with a 3-pointer. Gustafson scored from inside on the next possession to rebuild the lead to 10, and Iowa was back in control, 56-44, by the end of the period.

“Basketball is a game of runs, and it was nice to start off hot,” Doyle said. “We made a few mistakes to allow them to get back in it, but that shot by (Sevillian) ... that was cold-blooded.”

The ESPN national player of the year, Gustafson was matched up in the paint against NCSU’s 6-foot-5 freshman, Elissa Cunane. The rookie blocked Gustafson’s first shot, and Gustafson didn’t score until late in the first quarter.

“It’s important to be patient,” Gustafson said. “They were sagging inside early, so I was able to hit the guards.

“It’s physical in there, and I’m very much in shape, and some other posts aren’t. I think I’m able to wear them down.

Cunane had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolfpack, but shot 6 of 19 from the floor while Gustafson was 10 of 13.

“I think she kept her composure very well on the court,” Cunane said. “She just scored a lot around the basket, and she also had the outside shot.

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“Her style of play, and she was directing the players and leadership on the court, is something I can learn from.”

Kiara Leslie paced the Wolfpack with 16 points. But the Hawkeyes slowed North Carolina State’s outside attack; the Wolfpack were 4 of 18 from 3-point range.

“They put a lot of emphasis on their 3-point shots. We locked down on their 3s and wanted them to have to make tough 2s,” Davis said.

The Hawkeyes put together an eight-point run late in the first quarter for a 16-9 lead, and held the advantage the rest of the way. The margin grew to 26-14 at the 7:37 mark of the second period, prompting a Wolfpack timeout. A pair of free throws from Gustafson gave the Hawkeyes a 30-16 advantage, and the Hawkeyes matched the 14-point margin twice more before settling for a 37-24 cushion at intermission.

IOWA 79, NORTH CAROLINA STATE 61

NCAA Regional Semifinal, at Greensboro, N.C.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE (61): D.D. Rogers 5-11 2-2 12, Elissa Cunane 6-19 2-3 14, Aislinn Konig 4-7 0-0 10, Kai Crutchfield 1-7 0-0 3, Kiara Leslie 6-18 3-4 16, Kayle Jones 2-7 2-2 6, Esra McGoldrick 0-0 0-0 0, Jada Rice 0-0 0-0 0, Katie Wadsworth 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-69 9-11 61.

IOWA (79): Hannah Stewart 8-15 0-0 16, Megan Gustafson 10-13 7-7 27, Makenzie Meyer 2-6 3-4 9, Tania Davis 4-10 0-0 10, Kathleen Doyle 4-9 0-0 9, Amanda Ollinger 1-1 0-0 2, Alexis Sevillian 2-3 0-0 6, Monika Czinano 0-0 0-0 0, Zion Sanders 0-0 0-0 0, Tomi Taiwo 0-0 0-0 0, Paula Valino Ramos 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-57 10-11 79.

Halftime: Iowa 37, NC State 24. 3-point goals: NC State 4-18 (Cunane 0-2, Konig 2-4, Crutchfield 1-4, Leslie 1-4, Jones 0-4), Iowa 7-18 (Meyer 2-6, Davis 2-6, Doyle 1-4, Sevillian 2-2). Team fouls: NC State 10, Iowa 13. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: NC State 38 (Cunane 11), Iowa 35 (Gustafson 12). Assists: NC State 11 (Konig 5), Iowa 24 (Doyle 8). Steals: NC State 7 (Rogers 4), Iowa 7 (Doyle 3). Turnovers: NC State 10, Iowa 12.

Attendance: 6,544.

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

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