It’s hard, impossible really, not to hang your head when your dreams get crushed.
The Hawkeyes missed too many easy shots, gave up too many easy baskets and, most of all, ran into an outstanding team in top-ranked Baylor, losing 85-53 in this Elite Eight matchup.
Outstanding, it seems, is an understatement.
But the Iowa players will discover they have nothing to hang their heads about when they wake up Tuesday and look back on this postseason run, this season as a whole.
This was an outstanding Hawkeye team. And, again, outstanding is an understatement.
This was a memorable, remarkable team that had a season unlike any around here for a long, long time.
The gap between the true elites of women’s basketball and the rest remains wide, but the Hawkeyes can look back and cherish what they accomplished this season, including:
• Winning 29 games, tying a school record.
• Entering Monday on an eight-game winning. The Hawkeyes won 13 of their last 15 games, 18 of the last 21. In the 2019 portion of the season, Iowa went 20-4.
• Winning the Big Ten Conference tournament title for only the second time this century, the second time with Lisa Bluder at the helm.
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• Beating Maryland, one of those aforementioned elites, twice, including a 90-76 verdict in the Big Ten championship game.
• Sparking interest. More than 12,000 fans came to watch this team — twice. Iowa drew 12,376 on March 24 for a win over Missouri that sent it to the Sweet 16. There were 12,051 in the stands for Senior Day. And 10,716 were on hand for that first win over Maryland.
• And, of course, last but definitely not least is Megan Gustafson.
Gustafson is the reason these Hawks drew so much attention, won so many games and advanced so deep into the NCAA Tournament,
She didn’t do it alone, of course, but this was Gustafson’s team. This was her moment.
Named a first-team All-American on Monday by the Associated Press, she leaves Iowa as the all-time leading scorer (woman or man) and rebounder. Monday night, she became only the fourth women’s player in NCAA history to score more than 1,000 points in a season. She finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, falling a rebound short of her 34th double-double of the season, which would have broken the NCAA record. Alas, she settles for a tie.
But her legacy will go far beyond the points and rebounds. Videos of her doing the Mikan Drill not only went viral, but sent little girls across the state, across the country, into gyms and driveways to see what if they could duplicate the exercise.
They want to be like Megan. That’s special.
That’s something that should keep your head raised high.
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