Feb. 27, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s basketball team will enter the Big Ten Tournament with three wins in its last four games after downing Illinois, 61-56, in the regular season finale Saturday in front of 4,610 on Mediacom Court.
Hawkeye freshman Megan Gustafson made the closing statement in a battle of the league’s elite post players when she sank a turn-around jump shot over Chatrice White to give Iowa a 59-56 lead with 48 seconds remaining. Both players finished with double-doubles in points and rebounds.
“I got the ball and felt she was on a different side. I turned middle and felt confident,” said Gustafson, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. It is her seventh double-double in the last 10 games.
White scored 22 of her game-high 29 points in the second half and had 11 rebounds. She was 0-of-6 from 3-point range, including a final attempt from distance with seven seconds remaining.
“It was different for me guarding her because she is an outside shooter and I’m used to being physical down in the post,” Gustafson said. “It was nice to go against that and see what I could do out there.”
Iowa (18-12 overall, 8-10 Big Ten) finished the regular season 11-4 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena and has won 18-or-more games in nine consecutive seasons. Illinois falls to 9-20, 2-16.
Four Hawkeyes scored in double figures, led by Gustafson. Whitney Jennings, who made back-to-back 3-pointers to begin a 16-0 run at the end of the third quarter, scored 14, Ally Disterhoft had 13, and Chase Coley added 10.
“I thought that was tremendous to see that out of Lex because lots of times she has been a shot-first mentality,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It was nice to see here as a pass-first mentality.”
Kastanek played a big part in the 16-0 run that put Iowa ahead 55-37 heading in to the final quarter.
After White converted two free throws to cut Iowa’s lead to 39-37, the Hawkeyes went on their roll. Not only did they keep the Illini scoreless for the final 5:06 of the third quarter, but they poured it on over a span of 4:42 to take an 18-point lead.
The scoring run started with back-to-back 3-pointers by Jennings, 3s from Kastanek and Disterhoft, and two field goals by Gustafson off flashy assists from Kastanek.
Iowa shot 64 percent in the third quarter (9-of-14) and made 4-of-6 from distance. The fourth quarter was a different story. The Hawkeyes scored six points total and were 2-of-10 from the field (0-of-7 from 3-point). Meanwhile, Illinois made it a 1-point game at 57-56 with 1:07 to play on a jumper by Brooke Kissinger.
“It was obviously a game of momentum, a game of swings,” Bluder said. “When we’re hitting from 3, we’re really rolling, but when we’re not hitting from 3 and keep shooting them…we shot too many today.”
Of Iowa’s 57 field goal attempts, 28 were from distance. The Hawkeyes made 58.6 percent from 2-point range and 25 percent from 3-point.
Iowa led, 33-23, at the break after a cold-shooting first half for both teams. The Hawkeyes had the “hotter” hand in field goal (39.4 to 34.5), 3-point (20 to 18.2), and free throw percentage (57.1 to 50).
Iowa owned a 2:1 advantage in rebounding, 28-14, with Gustafson pulling down seven. Bluder was pleased that the Hawkeyes finished with a 44-31 edge on the boards.
“I’m really happy with our board work,” she said.
The Hawkeyes return to action Thursday at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. As the No. 8 or No. 9 seed, Iowa will play either Michigan or Nebraska and tip off at 11 a.m. (CT) from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The winner takes on top-seeded Maryland on March 4 at 11 a.m.