Iowa Women's Basketball

Physical defense has made Iowa's Megan Gustafson work harder for her points

20th-ranked Hawkeyes host improved Wisconsin on Monday

Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (10) puts up a shot under pressure from Nebraska’s Kate Cain (31) during their game Thursday at Iowa City. Gustafson’s shooting accuracy has gone down in Big Ten play, but is still scoring and rebounding at a high rate. The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes host Wisconsin on Monday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (10) puts up a shot under pressure from Nebraska’s Kate Cain (31) during their game Thursday at Iowa City. Gustafson’s shooting accuracy has gone down in Big Ten play, but is still scoring and rebounding at a high rate. The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes host Wisconsin on Monday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — They surely haven’t stopped her. They’ve barely slowed her.

But Iowa’s first two Big Ten women’s basketball opponents have made Megan Gustafson work — and work hard — for her points.

“I think the scouting report is to be as physical as possible with Megan,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said in a teleconference Friday. “Teams have to wear her down. because if she gets the ball, something good is going to happen.”

Gustafson’s scoring and rebounding averages have actually gone up in Big Ten play, to 29.0 points and 15.5 rebounds in the two games — a loss at Michigan State and a more-difficult-than-necessary home win over Nebraska.

But her field-goal percentage has dropped dramatically, to 56.4 percent. She was 11-for-19 against Michigan State, 11-of-20 against Nebraska.

“I know that I have a target on my back,” Gustafson said after the Hawkeyes escaped Nebraska’s late comeback bid, 77-71.

Gustafson won’t be dealing with as much physicality when the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes (10-3 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) host Wisconsin (10-5, 1-2).

Tipoff is 7 p.m. Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“Not as physical, but more agile,” is how Bluder summarized the Badgers’ inside corps. “They’re just getting more athletic since (Coach Jonathan Tsipis) has been there.”

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Wisconsin was 9-22 and 9-21 in Tsipis’ first two years. And though you won’t mistake the Badgers for a Big Ten contender yet, progress is being made. A home win over Purdue on Dec. 31 is proof.

“That opened everybody’s eyes,” Bluder said. “It will help us focus and lock in.”

The Badgers are offensively challenged, shooting 39.3 percent from the field, 29.4 percent from long range and 55.5 percent from the free-throw line. But they can defend, allowing a mere 57.0 points per game.

Iowa, meanwhile, is averaging 83.6 points per contest.

Bluder is hoping for an offensive resurgence in Makenzie Meyer, who is 3-for-13 from the field (0-for-8 from 3-point range) in Big Ten play.

“She’s too good not to be putting the ball in the hole,” Bluder said. “She needs to focus on things other than her offense. Sometimes when you take the focus off, things fall into place.”

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

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