IOWA CITY — After reaching another milestone Saturday, Megan Gustafson rescued the Iowa women’s basketball team.
The senior scored 16 of her 32 points in the fourth quarter to help the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes fight off upset-minded IUPUI 72-58 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“In the fourth quarter, I knew I had to make some plays,” said Gustafson, who became the third player in Iowa history to score 2,000 points when she collected her 10th point of the game on a field goal with 7 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first half.
Gustafson’s work in the final quarter extended beyond hitting four of the five shots she took and knocking down eight of the 10 free throws she attempted.
It started with an assist that came after the Jaguars had forged the game’s ninth tie on two of Macee Williams’ team-high 15 points to open the quarter.
Hannah Stewart broke the 48-48 tie on the ensuing possession, taking a feed from Gustafson and laying the ball in to put Iowa in front to stay with 9:32 remaining in the game.
The Hawkeyes worked the ball into Gustafson’s hands on four of their next five trips down the floor, allowing Iowa to extend a 19-6 run that had started in the final minutes of the third quarter.
By the time Gustafson laid the ball through the basket with 4:51 to play, Iowa had built a 61-52 advantage and was able to maintain a lead of at least seven points for the rest of the game.
“We knew this would be a hard game to get. They came in with a 29 RPI, they won at Ole Miss and Virginia Commonwealth, took Wisconsin to overtime, there wasn’t going to be anything easy about this one,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes’ 1-of-14 touch from 3-point range didn’t help.
“We’ve got to find a cure for that,” Bluder said. “Our guards did a better job in the second half of driving the ball to the basket and getting us to the line instead of just throwing the ball inside. It was something we needed to do.”
Makenzie Meyer collected Iowa’s only basket from behind the arc in the final seconds of the first half, cutting the IUPUI halftime lead to 33-31.
The Jaguars held a five-point advantage midway through the third quarter before Tania Davis began Iowa’s final surge.
Her steal and lay-in with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter cut into the Jaguars’ 46-42 lead.
A pair of free throws by Stewart, who finished with 10 points, and a basket by Gustafson allowed Iowa to take a 48-46 edge into the final quarter.
Still cold from the perimeter, the Hawkeyes helped themselves over the final two quarters with improved defense, limiting the Jaguars (6-3) to 25 second-half points.
In addition to finding Gustafson more frequently on the offensive end, Iowa (7-2) guards traded long-range shots for a willingness to attack the basket and work their way to the free throw line, where the Hawkeyes connected on 17-of-19 attempts over the final two quarters.
“There are going to be nights when the shots aren’t falling, and when that happens, you have to find other ways,” said Amanda Ollinger, who came off the bench to score five points and grab six rebounds. “This is a good time of year, before we get to Big Ten games, to learn that lesson and fix what we need to fix.”