The Iowa women’s basketball team’s NCAA Tournament run was short lived, thanks to Jaylyn Agnew, Sydney Lamberty and the Creighton Bluejays. The Hawkeyes fell at Pauley Pavilion to the Bluejays, 76-70.
The game was a battle between Iowa’s All American Megan Gustafson and Creighton’s Agnew. Agnew was the Bluejays’ sharpshooter from deep, dropping 11 points in the first half alone, including three 3-pointers. For the Hawkeyes, everything ran through Gustafson. The junior was dominant, and had a response for every Creighton three. Gustafson feasted on missed Bluejays three pointers, and tallied a double-double with over two minutes remaining in the first half. She was given extra attention defensively in the second half but still managed to finish the game with 29 points and 17 rebounds.
Hannah Stewart and Kathleen Doyle were the only other Hawkeye who joined Gustafson in the double-digit scoring category with 10 and 11 points, respectively. For the Bluejays, Agnew had a nice one-two punch going with Lamberty. Agnew had 24 points and 5 assists on the day, and Lamberty added another 20. Audrey Faber rounded out the Bluejays’ double-figure scores with 12 points.
It was a back-and-forth matchup from the opening tip. Neither team led by more than four points for the entire first half, culminating in a 34- 31 score at half. The stat sheet for this game is really kind of remarkable. These are two teams that play completely different styles of basketball, and the numbers show it. Creighton shot 24 three-pointers to Iowa’s 12. The Bluejays made nine, the Hawkeyes three. Even though the Bluejays’ lead was only four or six for most of the second half, it felt like more because of their constant barrage of threes that the Hawkeyes couldn’t match.
The opportunities were there for the Hawkeyes, but Bluder’s Bunch just couldn’t capitalize. Yes, there were turnovers (plenty of them; more on that below) and an overall lack of offensive production from anyone not named Megan Gustafson, but there were also wide-open layups that rimmed out, questionable offensive foul calls, that helped the Bluejays.
The third quarter was the turning point for the Bluejays. Gustafson started getting even larger defensive attention than normal, and the Hawkeyes struggled to score as a result. They started heaving 3’s to match Creighton to little avail, and on the defensive end, Bluder’s bunch gave the Bluejays multiple trips to the line for and-1 opportunities. Creighton opened up its largest lead of the game — 8 points — as a result.
END 3Q: Creighton 56, #Hawkeyes 50. Hannah Stewart hits at the horn to make it a two-possession game.— Dargan Southard (@Dargan_Southard) March 17, 2018
But that was just Iowa's fourth FG in the third. Starting guards are a combined 3-for-15 from the field.
Oof. That sequence was as brutal as it sounds. This squad is so talented, but also a classic example of a team that will struggle to score when its star is effectively taken out of the game.
Turnovers were the other big issue for the Hawkeyes the entire game. Many of them were avoidable entry-level pass mistakes to Gustafson, who was constantly getting doubled. The Hawkeyes had nine first half turnovers to Creighton's three, and while they shored it up in the second half, the narrative could have been different with better ball control. With just barely over two minutes left in the game and down 5, the Hawkeyes had a terrible turnover on a pass to Megan Gustafson that was nowhere near its intended target. It was a terrible day (and way) for the Hawks to imitate their male counterparts.
This was a matchup of two teams who play completely different styles of basketball, and a team like Iowa who is so low-post dominant and focused, will always struggle against a team who shoots three-pointers at every opportunity. Regardless of the outcome, this was a remarkable season for Lisa Bluder and her squad, and obviously Megan Gustafson was the reason why. She has one year left to take this team deep into the NCAA Tournament, and if this team can get more consistent play from everyone else on the team, this team could be lethal.