While the men’s team has been generating a lot of attention with their recent climb up the Big Ten standings and buzzer beaters (both ways) in each of the last three games, the women’s team was not only climbing the standings, they reached the top.
The #10 ranked Hawkeyes improved to 21-5 (12-3) after an 86-73 victory at home on Sunday against then-ranked #7 Maryland. There is so much excitement around the program that it takes bullet points to demonstrate all the incredibleness.
- Iowa is ranked in the AP top ten for the first time since 1996.
- This is the first time Iowa has defeated Maryland since they joined the conference in 2014 (previously 0-6).
- Senior Megan Gustafson earned her 12th Player of the Week conference award on the season (and 22nd of her career), both conference records.
- Iowa remains a perfect 14-0 at home with one home game remaining vs. Northwestern.
- As they sit atop the conference with a 12-3 record and a reasonable schedule remaining, the Hawkeyes look for their first regular season conference championship since 2008.
The victory over Maryland last Sunday was a signature win on national television. The Terps came into the game on an eight-game winning streak and could basically lock up another league title with a victory.
The game featured some runs by each side but ultimately it was a one point contest with just over seven minutes to play. By then, Gustafson had worn down the Terrapins and the Hawkeyes sealed the deal hitting 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch. For the game, Iowa shot a blistering 93% from the charity stripe (27 out of 29). Gustafson once again led the home team with 31 points and 17 rebounds. The fact that this seems boringly normal for her is a future story unto itself.
Luckily this team is more than just Gustafson because she was double and triple-teamed in the first quarter and was held to two points. Three other Hawkeyes picked up the slack by scoring in double figures on the night including senior guard Tania Davis with 13 and senior forward Hannah Stewart and junior guard Kathleen Doyle with 12 each.
“When that happens (being double and triple teamed), I’m able to figure out what else I can do to impact the game, whether that is getting my teammates open or being a decoy,” Gustafson said. “I don’t mind doing that at all, I have 100 percent confidence in them and that’s why our team is so good right now.”
Fans are starting to realize that this could be a pretty special team. A season-high 10,716 people came out to watch the victory even though there was a snowstorm the previous evening. Hopefully that number can be surpassed on March 3rd when the Hawkeyes host Northwestern in their final home game of the season and the final home game for the talented senior class.
Looking ahead, to share a conference title (or have a chance to win the conference outright), Iowa will hit the road to play Indiana (17-10, 6-9) on Thursday and then travel to Nebraska (12-14, 7-8) to play on Monday evening before hosting Northwestern (15-11, 8-7) in their final regular season game.
Maryland has a slightly more difficult finishing schedule, though two of their three games are at home. Maryland will host Minnesota (19-7, 8-7), travel to Purdue (17-11, 8-7), and finish the year hosting Illinois (10-16, 2-13).