By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — If you want to get picky, Indiana struck first Saturday when Jaelynn Penn made two free throws 12 seconds into its Big Ten women’s basketball game against the University of Iowa.
Then, the Hawkeyes delivered punches with much more effectiveness. Time and time again.
Iowa (23-6 overall, 11-5 Big Ten) closed the regular season with a 75-62 victory over the Hoosiers in front of 6,921 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It is the seventh consecutive win for the Hawkeyes and it ended an eight-game winning streak for Indiana (16-13, 9-7).
Iowa made 9 of 13 field goals in the first quarter (69 percent) with 10 paint points, Indiana made 2 of 13 (15.4 percent) with zero points in the paint. Hawkeye junior Megan Gustafson scored the first eight points for Iowa, which used a 10-0 run to grab a 14-5 lead.
“It was huge setting the defensive tone right off the bat, taking control of the game, and putting doubt in (Indiana’s) mind,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Those are all things that are important if you establish yourself in that first quarter.”
Gustafson registered her 26th double-double of the season (and 53rd of her career) with 36 points and 15 rebounds. She had 18 points and 10 rebounds by halftime.
“Well, No. 10 (Gustafson) had a great game, like she always does, there is no doubt about that,” Bluder said. “If she doesn’t get everybody’s all-Big Ten award, I don’t understand what people are looking at.”
Gustafson made 15 of 21 field goals, lifting her season field goal percentage to 66.7. She also averages 12.8 rebounds per game.
Iowa’s 6-foot-3 All-America candidate received plenty of support. Sophomore Makenzie Meyer scored 13 points with two 3-pointers, senior Chase Coley added 12 points, six rebounds, and five assists, and junior Hannah Stewart scored 10 points with five rebounds in 21 minutes.
“Megan does not get those baskets without her teammates delivering great passes for her,” Bluder said. “Hannah Stewart had a great first half and that takes a lot of pressure off Megan; Chase has five assists. Yes, Megan is an All-American, and this is a team. She will be the first one to tell you that everybody is important on our team.”
Iowa’s defense limited Indiana senior Tyra Buss to 12 points in 40 minutes. In her previous two games — wins over Nebraska and Minnesota — Buss averaged 36.5 points, shooting 52 percent from the field and 94 percent from the line. On Saturday, she was 4 of 15 from the field and 1 of 2 from the line with three 3-point field goals.
“I was proud of our defensive effort,” Bluder said.
The victory over Indiana capped a 7-0 month of February for the Hawkeyes, who defeated Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Rutgers, and now Indiana.
“February has been a great month for us,” Gustafson said. “Everyone in the Big Ten is a really good team. It doesn’t matter if it’s Maryland or Illinois, everyone is going to give their best shot. We had a lot of close games and we battled and finished, so I’m proud of this team that we were able to have a great February; it gives us a lot of momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament.”
Amanda Cahill led four Indiana players in double figures with 14 points. She made 4 of 8 3-point field goals; the Hoosiers were 13 of 26 from distance.
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“This was another great Iowa game. We came out and had a good first quarter. We talked about coming out and establishing ourselves and we have done that all of February.”
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
Iowa’s defense limited Indiana to 32.8-percent shooting from the field in the game (21 of 64). Only eight Hoosier field goals came from inside the 3-point line.
Gustafson became the first University of Iowa women’s basketball player to score more than 700 points in a season. She enters postseason play with 734 points, an average of 25.3 points per game.
The Hawkeyes out-scored Indiana, 36-16, in the paint. Gustafson obviously had a huge performance, but Stewart came in relief and provided 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two blocked shots in 21 minutes. She scored six points in the first quarter.
Freshman Alexis Sevillian missed the regular season finale because of influenza. Bluder hopes to have the guard back for the Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa has out-scored its last nine opponents in the first quarter of games.
The Hawkeyes join the other 13 league schools at the Big Ten Tournament from Feb. 28-March 4 in Indianapolis.