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Iowa Women’s Basketball 90, Maryland 76: BIG TEN TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS!

A remarkable performance from Megan Gustafson gives Iowa its first Big Ten Tournament championship since 2001

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament- Maryland vs Iowa Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

A remarkable season for Iowa women’s basketball continues, as Megan Gustafson and company dominated Maryland for 40 minutes on the way to a 90-76 win over the Maryland Terrapins.

It’s Iowa’s first conference tournament win since 2001, and first appearance in the title game since 2014, when the Hawkeyes fell to Nebraska in a heartbreaker. This is also Iowa’s second win against Maryland this season.

Megan Gustafson picked up right where she left off against Maryland in their regular season matchup. The senior was unstoppable all night long, torching the Terps for 45 points, 10 rebounds, and an assist and a block. She was joined by Kathleen Doyle and Tania Davis in the double-digit scoring column, who respectively had 13 and 14 points, along with four assists a piece. For Maryland, meanwhile, Kaila Charles was the only Terp scoring in double digits with 36 points and 9 rebounds, but the team had more contributions from the bench. Iowa shot the ball well overall, shooting 50% overall and just over 40% from deep.

Maryland started the game on a 7-2 run, But Gustafson quickly got things going in her normal dominant fashion, scoring the Hawkeyes first six points, and drawing Iowa back within one at 7-6 with 6:54 remaining in the first quarter. A wide open three from Mackenzie Meyer gave Iowa its first lead soon after, and Iowa pushed on the gas from there. A jumper from Kathleen Doyle, an and-1 from Gustafson, and a three from Doyle suddenly turned the tide in Iowa’s favor, creating a 15-0 run and a 17-7 lead. The Hawkeyes never trailed again.

Iowa’s triangle-2 defense gave Maryland fits, and bad shot selection and turnovers for the Terps certainly didn’t help either. Even when they got good looks, the Hawkeyes dominated the glass, exactly like they did during the regular season win.

Doyle got into foul trouble late in the first quarter, but Iowa wasn’t deterred, coming into the second quarter and immediately hitting two big shots from deep. But Maryland chipped away at the Iowa lead, getting it down from as many as 13 down to six with 6:30 left in the half. But Gustafson and company seemed to always have an answer.

Even with Meyer, Stewart and Doyle in foul trouble late in the first half, Iowa was able to maintain its 10 point lead. No other Terrapin except Charles could consistently score. Maryland did manage to chip away at the lead, but Gustafson absolutely took over on her own. She finished the half with TWENTY-SIX POINTS(!!!!!!) and Iowa entered the half with a 51-45 lead and 16 assists on 19 field goals despite the foul trouble.

The third quarter was where things got dicey. Maryland took advantage of Iowa going cold from FG range to tie things at 53 with 7:15 left in the third quarter. But a Gustafson layup was followed immediately by a Doyle steal off a Maryland inbound, resulting in a quick 4-0 run in the span of about five seconds. Maryland wouldn’t go away, and Gustafson got into foul trouble, but Gustafson and Doyle took it to the next level and got the lead back to nine by the end of the third quarter.

Immediately in the fourth quarter, Davis got things going with a three that got the lead back to double digits, and from there, the Hawkeyes never looked back. Maryland would make baskets, but could never consistently stop the Hawkeyes on the other end of the floor. A big part of that was Doyle’s defense on Charles. Despite the huge scoring numbers, she was contained by Doyle in the second half when it mattered most. From there, it turned into a battle at the free throw line, and the Hawkeyes were up to the challenge, sealing the win at the charity stripe in the final two minutes of the game.

Gustafson was obviously the difference maker in this game, but that’s not the whole story of this game, or Iowa Women’s Basketball team. A big difference this year vs. last year is that the other players on the court are able to consistently score, with or without Gustafson on the floor. Gustafson is obviously an unstoppable force, but the fact that her teammates are able to make baskets from all areas of the floor as well gives defenses trouble when the offense is running on all cylinders.

We’ll know more next weekend, but the consensus seems to be that the Hawkeyes will be the last No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and the No. 8 seed overall. This is a special run for Lisa Bluder, Gustafson, and the program as a whole. I for one, do not want to see it end anytime soon.