IOWA CITY — As one might expect, Iowa senior All-American Megan Gustafson drew plenty of defensive attention during Friday night’s season-opener against Oral Roberts.
When the double and triple-teams came at the 6-foot-3 post, somebody had to be open.
That somebody was forward Hannah Stewart.
The 6-foot-2 senior consistently slipped to the basket for passes from Gustafson. She finished with a career-high 19 points as the No. 13 Hawkeyes held off a pesky Golden Eagles team, 90-77, before 3,644 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
For three years, Stewart has been a reserve, backing up Gustafson for the most part. With the departure of Chase Coley to graduation, Stewart is now filling the power forward position.
“Hannah has worked so hard the last three years,” said Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder. “She has stayed so positive and given just everything to this program. I am so happy for her to be inserted in the starting lineup, she’s deserved it.”
Stewart knows her role will be one of supporting Gustafson on the inside and to take advantage of the attention paid to the Iowa center.
“Having an All-American on the team is great for a lot of reasons,” Stewart said. “I think it is a testament to the kind of player Megan is, knowing she is going to be doubled and she knows those are assists she is going to give her teammates.”
Gustafson finished with a game-high six assists. She also scored a team-high 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.
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The Hawkeyes came out strong. Bluder was able to play 10 players in the first quarter and when Stewart converted a lay-in early in the second quarter, Iowa’s lead was 34-9.
“I thought our first half was very, very good,” Bluder said. “Offensively and defensively, we did some really good things. Second half, we just didn’t bring the energy and really let them get back in the game.”
Iowa led 49-23 at the break, but the Golden Eagles found their touch in the second half. After being held to 4-of 20 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half, Oral Roberts was a sizzling 12-of-18 after the break. They got as close as 11 late in the game.
“We definitely have to work on our 3-point defense,” Bluder said.
Alexis Sevillian added 19 points and had just one turnover in almost 35 minutes of action. Makenzie Meyer finished with 13 points.
Lakota Beatty led Oral Roberts with 26 points. Maya Mayberry added 16.
Iowa returns to action on Tuesday night with a road test at Western Kentucky.
“That’s a tough place to play,” Bluder said.