By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — May this serve as a lesson to any analyst or critic in TV land who questions the aptitude of University of Iowa senior center Megan Gustafson:
Don’t poke the bear.
Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder alluded to postgame comments on ESPN2 after Michigan State rallied to defeat the Hawkeyes, 84-70, on Dec. 30 behind 20 points and 17 rebounds from Spartan center Jenna Allen.
“There was a little talk after that game that they had the better post player,” Bluder said. “That didn’t sit well with us too much. Tonight, I think you saw the best post player in the Big Ten and one of the best in the United States of America.”
How could Gustafson top the 30 points and 14 rebounds she compiled in East Lansing, Michigan, in the Big Ten opener? How does 41 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocked shots sound?
It sparked No. 16 Iowa to an 86-71 victory over No. 23/21 Michigan State on Wednesday in front of 6,287 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Allen scored two points and fouled out with six minutes to play).
The Hawkeyes improved to 18-5 overall, 9-3 in the Big Ten, Michigan State is 16-6, 6-5.
“I try to focus on my team and what my team needs me to do,” Gustafson said. “I would love to get that loss back (at Michigan State), but we were able to get it back tonight. I have to keep focusing on our team no matter what.”
Gustafson was 17 of 24 from the field and 7 of 7 from the line. It was her 21st double-double, the eighth time she has scored more than 30 points, and the second time she scored more than 40 this season.
“Another amazing performance,” Bluder said.
Junior guard Kathleen Doyle wasn’t too shabby, either. She was 4 of 6 from 3-point range and finished with 18 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds.
“Kathleen played really well as well,” Bluder said. “(She was) closing in on that feel of a triple double, hits four 3s for us, has eight assists.”
Iowa shot 51 percent from the field (32 of 63) — the seventh consecutive game the Hawkeyes have been above .500 from the field. They were 16 of 21 from the line.
Michigan State was led by Nia Clouden’s 20 points and five assists.
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“I was proud of our women and their effort. Their focus was amazing leading up to this game in practices and tonight. They were locked in and it was fun to see. When you (play) a top 25 team and you lead the whole game, that is pretty impressive to win every quarter.”
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
Iowa was out-rebounded by 14 (48-34) in the first meeting at Michigan State. On Wednesday, the Hawkeyes were plus-7 on the boards (44-37) and had 14 second-chance points compared to just four by the Spartans.
“I’m happy with our team, especially on the rebounding end,” Bluder said. “(Michigan State) is such a good rebounding team and for us to get 14 second-chance points to their four second-chance points, that’s big.”
Junior guard Makenzie Meyer did not play and watched the game in street clothes from the bench. She hyper-extended a knee during Iowa’s 81-61 win at Penn State on Feb. 3 and her status is day-to-day.
Freshman guard Tomi Taiwo played a season-high 18 minutes, scoring three points with two rebounds and two assists. In seven previous Big Ten games, she played a total of 22 minutes.
“I was happy for Tomi,” Bluder said. “To come in and play significant minutes, I thought she played well.”
4s ARE WILD
Junior forward Amanda Ollinger scored four points with four rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes.
“Amanda did a nice job,” Bluder said. “She was jumping between the small forward and the power forward which is not easy to do in our system. She handled that very well.”
The Hawkeyes hit the road Sunday when they take on Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes (10-10, 6-5) are coming off a 78-73 win over Penn State on Feb. 6.