By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two seconds remained in the biggest University of Iowa women’s basketball game in who knows when and not coincidentally, the ball was in the hands of Hawkeye senior All-American Megan Gustafson.
It was her 17th rebound of the game.
Forget the 31 points and three blocked shots for Iowa’s 6-foot-3 do-everything center. The most meaningful numbers were 86 points (for Iowa) and 73 (for Maryland).
The No. 14/13 Hawkeyes improved to 21-5 with the victory over No. 7/8 Maryland (23-3) in front of 10,716 on Mediacom Court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Both teams are tied on top of the Big Ten Conference with records of 12-3.
“I think we have something special and I want to share it with everybody,” said Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder, pleased with a season-high in attendance despite an overnight snow storm.
Iowa extended its winning streak to five games and ended Maryland’s at eight.
Four Hawkeyes scored in double figures. Senior guard Tania Davis dropped in 13 points and senior forward Hannah Stewart and junior guard Kathleen Doyle added 12 apiece. Doyle handed out five of Iowa’s 18 assists while Stewart had seven rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots.
“They never stopped moving and they know their role,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said of the Hawkeyes not named Gustafson. “They all understand how to win and that’s accepting your role and they do a good job within their role.”
Bluder has witnessed that up close and personal for some time.
“We believe in all of our parts,” Bluder said. “We believe in them in all areas, but we’re also smart and we know we have a special player in Megan. I credit these guys so much, it’s hard to do as an athlete some time. You work hard and it is fun to score points, but they get as much excitement out of that assist as they do the basket. That’s what makes this team special.”
A good example was the first quarter with Iowa holding a 17-14 lead, despite just two points (1 of 4 shooting) and two rebounds from Gustafson. Meanwhile, six other Hawkeyes found the scoring column.
“When that happens, I’m able to figure out what else I can do to impact the game, whether that is getting my teammates open or being a decoy,” Gustafson said. “I don’t mind doing that at all, I have 100 percent confidence in them and that’s why our team is so good right now.”
Stephanie Jones led Maryland with 21 points on 10 of 16 shooting. Terrapin junior Kaila Charles, who entered the game averaging 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, was limited to two points and three boards.
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“We have three games left and we have a lot of work still to do. We’re going to get refocused, but I am going to let them enjoy this one for about 24 hours, then we will get to work on Indiana.”
QUOTING MARYLAND COACH BRENDA FRESE
“What a game, what an atmosphere. It felt like one of those games when you don’t want your season to end. I loved the crowd here, it was passionate and energetic.”
PLAY OF THE GAME?
With Iowa leading 72-69 with 2:31 remaining, Hawkeye sophomore Alexis Sevillian made a 3-point field goal off an assist from Makenzie Meyer.
“Lexi’s 3 with 2:30 to go was a huge, huge basket for us,” Bluder said. “Then we made free throws.
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
Seven Hawkeyes combined to make 27 of 29 free throws. Gustafson was 11 of 12 from the line while Doyle (6 of 6), Meyer (4 of 4), Stewart (2 of 2), Sevillian (2 of 2), and Amanda Ollinger (1 of 1) were perfect.
Maryland attempted eight free throws, making four.
This is Iowa’s first win over Maryland since defeating the Terrapins, 53-50, on Dec. 6, 1992. Maryland was 6-0 against the Hawkeyes since joining the Big Ten Conference during the 2014-15 season.
The Hawkeyes play at Indiana (17-9, 6-8) on Thursday with a 7 p.m. (CT) tip. The Hoosiers, who have lost three games in a row, host Rutgers on Monday.