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SWEET VICTORY: Iowa women’s hoops tops Mizzou

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WE’RE GOING TO THE SWEET 16

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
AP

With a 68-52 win over Missouri, the Iowa Hawkeyes women’s basketball team is headed to the Sweet 16.

They’ll play either NC State or Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on March 30 in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s the seventh time in program history the Hawkeyes have advanced to the regional semifinal, with the last coming in 2015. Iowa finishes the season a perfect 16-0 in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

This is pretty cool, especially for Megan Gustafson as she gets to advance past the first weekend for the first time in her storied Iowa career. The Iowa post was at her best against the Tigers, scoring 24 points and hauling in 19 rebounds over 37 minutes.

Through the first two games of the tournament, Gustafson has tallied 54 points and grabbed 35 boards. Makenzie Meyer was good again today, hitting four triples and scoring 18 points — she’s now got 34 in the tournament and has splashed home nine 3-point attempts. (STATS)

Missouri led by as many as seven in the first half, before a second quarter 12-0 run that spanned six minutes gave Iowa the lead for good. That particular run was made up entirely of Meyer and Gustafson scores, which should just give you another idea of just how dominant they’ve been in the first two rounds.

Iowa’s defense was particularly impressive in this game, especially in the second half. Missouri hit just nine field goals in the final two frames and were a pitiful 4-of-18 from behind the arc.

The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, hit 61.9 percent of their shots in the final two quarters and made 7-of-8 free throws. That’s winning basketball.

The second-quarter run seemed to take a bit out of Missouri and it never really recovered. Iowa looked far better in this game than they did in the first-round matchup with Mercer, with better movement both offensively and defensively.

There weren’t many rushed shots and everything Iowa did felt far more patient than it was on Friday. It helped to get another solid performance out of Kathleen Doyle, who ended up with 15 points, three assists and a pair of rebounds for the Hawkeyes.

The other big thing? Iowa had just 11 turnovers. That’s probably a few more than they really want to have, but it’s a vast improvement over the 24 they had against Mercer. Again, everything the Hawkeyes did just felt more under control in this game and their play was just much smoother.

Amber Smith led the Tigers with 21 points and nine rebounds — she was the only Mizzou player in double figures.

Especially after watching the men’s team fall just short in their second-round game an hour earlier, this is a sigh of relief. We’re witnessing not only one of the all-time best players to ever don the black and gold in Gustafson, we’re watching one of the all-time best teams.

Enjoy it. Iowa hasn’t been quarterfinals of this tournament since the incredible run in 1993 that ended with an overtime loss to Ohio State in the Final Four. This Hawkeye team is good enough to make the Elite Eight and after that? Who knows.

The announcers at one point in this game said Iowa was among seven or eight teams with a real shot at a national title. There is still quite a ways to go, but I’m starting to believe that chance exists.