Feb. 17, 2016
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Nothing sticks out about University of Iowa freshman Megan Gustafson‘s first collegiate women’s basketball start at Purdue on Jan. 24.
Naught, nil, zilch, zippo.
Inexplicably, Gustafson, a 6-foot-3 freshman post, corralled a grand total of zero rebounds in 19 minutes during the Hawkeyes’ 90-73 loss in West Lafayette, Indiana. How times have changed since.
“It’s a lot different. I didn’t get a single rebound that game and that was a turning point for me to realize I need to get rebounds, that is what I was recruited for,” Gustafson said. “I made an emphasis to rebound more.”
Thinking back on the first meeting at Purdue causes Gustafson to cast a cynical smile and shake her head in disbelief. She said her mindset was on blocking out a Boilermaker front line that included 6-foot-2 Bridget Perry, 6-2 Dominique McBride, 6-5 Bree Horrocks, and 6-6 Nora Kiesler. But those four combined for 15 rebounds that day and Purdue held a 34-20 advantage on the boards.
“I don’t know that (Megan) responded the best to that situation,” Bluder said. “There is no doubt she is better now than she was then.”
In the ensuing six starts, Gustafson is averaging 11.8 points and 12.2 rebounds per game with five double-doubles. Gustafson pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds Monday at Minnesota and scored 14 points in 32 minutes.
“It was an amazing effort on the boards and she shot 50 percent (6-of-12) from the field, too,” Bluder said. “She is doing great things for us. I’m happy for her — she does such a great job of keeping the ball high off an offensive rebound and being able to convert it again. She has a real knack for that.”
“It’s a lot different. I didn’t get a single rebound that game and that was a turning point for me to realize I need to get rebounds, that is what I was recruited for. I made an emphasis to rebound more.”
The six offensive rebounds Gustafson grabbed against Minnesota gives her an average of 2.4 per game. She leads all Hawkeyes with 164 rebounds (6.3 per game).
Although Gustafson has yet to be recognized as the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week, she has established herself as one of the top newcomers in the league. Gustafson shares 11th place with Rachel Hollivay of Rutgers with 107 rebounds in 14 Big Ten games (7.6 per game); she is tied for sixth in the league with 2.9 offensive rebounds a game.
“It has helped getting more time on the floor. I’m feeling more comfortable,” said Gustafson, who averages 19.8 minutes of playing time in 26 games. That has increased to 22.8 minutes in 14 league games.
Gustafson attended South Shore (Wisconsin) High School, where she scored 3,229 points with 1,724 rebounds, and 628 blocked shots. There are less than 75 students in grades 7-12 at the tiny school located a crankbait’s cast from Lake Superior.
“Coming from a small school I didn’t have all those fancy moves that other people might have learned in high school with their training,” Gustafson said. “I came in with no real training besides AAU, so I knew I needed to work as hard as I could to learn those skills and see what would happen.”
Gustafson tried to ingest everything associate head coach Jan Jensen offered. She picked up pointers during breakdown workouts with fellow Hawkeyes Nicole Smith, Hailey Schneden, and Chase Coley.
As for statistics, Gustafson lets others tell her the final numbers at game’s end. Her only goals are to play as physical as possible, contribute her share to the game plan, and help the Hawkeyes win.
But there is one statistic — or lack thereof — she knows by heart: zero rebounds against Purdue.
“All I know is I am going to rebound from here on out,” Gustafson said.
The next opportunity is Thursday against the same Boilermaker team that inspired her rebounding revolution.