By DARREN MILLER
DES MOINES, Iowa — No team wants to head into its holiday recess with a loss. The No. 15/16 University of Iowa women’s basketball team won’t worry about that.
Senior center Megan Gustafson turned in a monster second half with 30 points and nine rebounds and the Hawkeyes scored 48 points over the final 20 minutes to secure the mythical state championship with a 91-82 win over Drake in front of 6,107 in the Knapp Center. Gustafson finished with 44 points and 14 rebounds.
Iowa wraps up nonconference play at 9-2, Drake (8-4) lost for a third consecutive game. The result means the Hawkeyes swept all three in-state opponents for a second year in a row.
“It feels good because of the quality of basketball we have in this state,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It would be one thing if teams weren’t very good, but we have three other really good teams in this state.”
Junior guard Kathleen Doyle was Iowa’s answer to Drake’s Becca Hittner, who scored 23 points in the first half. The Bulldogs didn’t have a second-half answer for Gustafson, who made 11 of 13 field goals and 8 of 10 free throws after the break.
“Kathleen has defensive moxie and she likes those challenges,” Bluder said. “She will guard anybody on the floor (positions) 1 through 4. I was extremely happy with the defensive effort Kathleen gave us.”
In the second half Hittner scored nine points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field.
“We prepared well coming into the game and we had some great defense,” Gustafson said. “We wanted to buckle down in the second half and we did a nice job.”
For the game, the Hawkeyes made 56 percent from the field (34 of 61), Drake shot 46 percent (28 of 61) with 12 3-point field goals. The teams entered the game 2-3 in the nation in assists; Iowa finished with 24, Drake had 20.
Iowa senior guard Tania Davis scored 14 points with six assists. She made 6 of 10 field goals.
“I thought Tania did a great job leading our team and keeping great composure,” Bluder said. “She has six assists and shot the ball well.”
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“We had a great start to this game with a 16-point lead in the first quarter (26-10 at the 3:42 mark). That’s what Drake does, they battle back and I wouldn’t expect anything different out of them.
“This is a great win for us to come in here and beat Drake, to claim the state championship again this year, and that’ back-to-back years. That’s the first time that has been done in the history of our program. This is significant for us.”
Doyle, the defensive hero for the Hawkeyes, scored nine points to go along with her game-high eight assists and three steals. Iowa had four players score in double figures: Gustafson (44), Davis (14), Hannah Stewart (14), and Makenzie Meyer (10).
“I love that balance,” Bluder said. “I love we had 24 assists because we shot the ball well and got the ball inside.”
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
Iowa scored 50 points in the paint, accounting for 55 percent of its total points. Gustafson made 17 field goals and Stewart made five to lead the Hawkeye charge in the low post.
The Hawkeyes open Big Ten Conference play against Michigan State on Dec. 30 in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans (10-1) have won seven straight games.