By DARREN MILLER
MINNEAPOLIS — There won’t be chatter of must wins or struggling on the road.
Those topics were silenced Monday by a 22nd-ranked University of Iowa women’s basketball team that started strong and finished stronger for an 81-63 victory over No. 23 Minnesota in front of 5,439 in Williams Arena.
The Hawkeyes improve to 12-4 overall, 3-2 in the Big Ten Conference. They are now 1-2 in league road games. Minnesota (12-4, 1-4) lost its fourth game in a row.
Iowa senior Megan Gustafson scored 34 points in 38 minutes, making 16 of 22 field goals and both free throw attempts. She also compiled 13 rebounds, four assists, and three blocked shots. She had plenty of help from three teammates who also scored in double figures. Senior Tania Davis poured in 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting (3 of 4 from distance) with seven assists. Junior Kathleen Doyle scored 11 points with seven assists and four steals and senior Hannah Stewart scored 10 points with nine rebounds, three steals, and three blocked shots.
Iowa led 23-19 after the first quarter, but found itself in a 40-32 hole at halftime. That changed with a big third quarter (outscoring the Gophers 24-9).
“We talked about getting our composure (at halftime),” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Our players did that and did a great job of having composure and staying laser-focused all through this game.”
Kenisha Bell led the Gophers with 22 points, Destiny Pitts added 16.
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“Oh, the Big Ten is such a hard conference. It’s not just a road win, but it’s a road win against a top 25 team.
“Big Ten road wins are special and this one means a lot to our players, so we’re glad to get that road win and kind of get that monkey off of our back of having two Big Ten road losses.”
SHARING THE WEALTH
With seven assists Monday, Doyle now has handed out five or more assists in seven consecutive games. During that stretch, Doyle is averaging 7.1 assists per game.
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
The Hawkeyes scored 49 points in the second half, making 20 of 29 field goals (3 of 7 from 3-point range). During the same stretch, Minnesota scored 23 points, making 8 of 28 field goals (29 percent) and 1 of 12 from 3-point range (8 percent).
Gustafson scored 30-or-more points for the fifth time this season (it was also her 15th double-double of the season). She scored 44 at Drake, 32 against Robert Morris, 32 against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and 30 at Michigan State.
The Hawkeyes return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday to face Michigan (11-6, 2-3) with a 7 p.m. (CT) tip-off. The game will be televised by BTN. Iowa is 8-0 at home this season.