IOWA CITY — The Iowa women’s basketball team is solidly trending upward again.
Junior Megan Gustafson scored 25 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds as the Hawkeyes won their fifth Big Ten game in a row, 88-61, over Wisconsin before 7,495 fans Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I think we’re figuring it out,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “We’ve got Makenzie (Meyer) back, we’re kind of understanding how to play without Tania (Davis) and I think our team is at a really good spot confidence-wise right now.”
Iowa (21-6, 9-5 Big Ten) has rallied from a dogged January that saw it drop five of seven games. With two games left in the regular season, the Hawkeyes are alone in fifth place in the conference. While the fifth spot guarantees a bye into the second round of the Big Ten tournament, a move into the top four would yield a coveted double-bye into the quarterfinals.
“That is a huge advantage,” Bluder said. “But all we can do is go out and win the next game. That is all we can concern ourselves with.”
Leading 23-17 early in the second quarter, the Hawkeyes blew the game open with a 28-6 burst that bled into the second half.
Iowa led by as many as 35 points at 73-38 early in the final frame.
“I just think they did a great job defensively,” Bluder said. “We talked about how it is important for us to finish defense and that means securing the rebound. … I was really happy with our defensive effort and I always love it when defense turns into offense for us.”
The Hawkeyes continue to receive dazzling performances from Gustafson, who has been named Big Ten Player of the Week eight times this year and is within a point of tying the school single-season scoring record set by Cindy Haugejorde during the 1979-80 school year (672).
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“I am honored to be able to be compared to people who are great, great people who came here from the past,” Gustafson said. “That is not my priority. Right now, I know what my role is on the team. But at the same time, I just have to thank my teammates. They are always the ones setting me up and being able to get me good passes.”
Gustafson’s teammates did plenty of heavy lifting against the Badgers. Redshirt freshman guard Alexis Sevillian started her 15th game in a row in place of injured guard Tania Davis (knee) and tied a career-high with five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points and four assists.
“Tania is always there to not only be there to help us on the court, but off the court,” Sevillian said. “Her presence means a lot to our team. Whenever she is there to help us, that means a ton to us and we learn from that each and every day.”
Meyer scored nine points and distributed six assists in her eighth game back from a broken hand that cost her a month. Sophomore guard Kathleen Doyle added 10 points and six assists, while junior forward Hannah Stewart posted 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists off the bench.
Senior guard Cayla McMorris led Wisconsin (9-19, 2-13) with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Iowa visits Rutgers on Wednesday, then closes the regular season at home against Indiana on Saturday.
“It’s really exciting,” Gustafson said. “Two really big games. … They are really good teams and they are kind of on a roll, so we’ve just got to keep having that focus and energy.”
AT CARVER-HAWKEYE ARENA
Iowa 88, Wisconsin 61
WISCONSIN (61): Marsha Howard 5-5 2-2 12, Courtney Fredrickson 4-9 0-0 9, Kendra Van Leeuwen 0-4 0-0 0, Niya Beverley 4-8 0-0 8, Cayla McMorris 5-11 1-2 14, Suzanne Gilreath 5-14 0-0 13, Roichelle Marble 0-6 0-2 0, Abby Laszewski 2-5 1-3 5, Lexy Richardson 0-0 0-2 0, Lizzie Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Kara Crowley 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 25-65 4-11 61.
IOWA (88): Chase Coley 3-7 1-3 7, Megan Gustafson 9-13 7-9 25, Makenzie Meyer 2-7 4-4 9, Alexis Sevillian 7-11 0-0 19, Kathleen Doyle 4-6 2-4 10, Hannah Stewart 5-8 0-0 10, Zion Sanders 0-1 2-2 2, Paula Valino Ramos 0-0 0-0 0, Carly Mohns 0-0 0-0 0, Amanda Ollinger 3-4 0-0 6, Totals 33-57 16-22 88.
Wisconsin 13 10 15 23—61
Iowa 23 22 26 17—88
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Halftime — Iowa, 45-23. Three-point goals — Wisconsin 7-24 (McMorris 3-5, Gilreath 3-10, Fredrickson 1-2, Beverley 0-1, Van Leeuwen 0-3, Marble 0-3), Iowa 6-13 (Sevillian 5-8, Meyer 1-4, Ollinger 0-1). Rebounds — Wisconsin 32 (McMorris 11), Iowa 42 (Gustafson 8). Assists — Wisconsin 12 (Marble 4), Iowa 24 (Meyer 6, Doyle 6). Turnovers — Wisconsin 18, Iowa 17. Total fouls — Wisconsin 18, Iowa 10. Fouled out — Howard. A — 7,495.
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