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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was the 1,053th field goal of her career and it clinched a Senior Day victory Sunday for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team.
For senior Megan Gustafson at least, the left-handed layup off an assist from senior post buddy Hannah Stewart was routine. And even with 6:42 left in the game, it put the Hawkeyes up by 20 points and put the regular-season finale out of reach.
After the bucket, Gustafson hustled to the opposite lane, thrashing her hands upward, encouraging more noise from the season-high 12,051 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
You knew it had to end this way, right?
The favorite daughter of the Iowa women’s basketball program closed the season on a high note and pulled the team with her. There were more points to come in this game for the All-American Gustafson — eight more in fact — as the No. 12/11 Hawkeyes rolled past Northwestern, 74-50, on Mediacom Court.
Iowa finishes the regular season 23-6 overall, 14-4 in the Big Ten, and 15-0 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Northwestern falls to 16-13, 9-9.
Gustafson scored 34 points with 12 rebounds in 33 minutes. She made 14-of-17 field goals and all six free throws for the 82nd double-double of her career and 27th of the season. She heads into her final postseason with school-record totals of 2,605 points and 1,364 rebounds.
“There was a lot of outside stuff going on with family coming in and it being our one guaranteed last home game,” Gustafson said. “I thought we did a nice job preparing like it’s any other game.”
Stewart made 6-of-8 field goals and finished with 12 points and six rebounds; junior Kathleen Doyle added 12 points and two 3-point field goals.
Gustafson, Stewart, and senior Tania Davis combined for 53 points, 19 rebounds, and 11 assists on Senior Day.
“I’m so proud of them and what they have accomplished in four years,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “They have left their imprint on our program both in the stat books and culturally. They have shown the underclassmen how to be Hawks and what is expected of Hawkeyes.”
Three Northwestern players scored in double figures, led by Abbie Wolf with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.
QUOTING COACH BLUDER
“To go undefeated on your home court during this season is an amazing accomplishment. We would have loved to have won the Big Ten, but to finish outright second in this tough of a conference is another good accomplishment.”
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
Iowa shot 61.2 percent from the field (30-of-49), the sixth time this season the Hawkeyes have made more than 60 percent of their field goal attempts. Meanwhile, Iowa’s defense limited Northwestern to 37.9 percent shooting (22 of 58).
Five of the seven Hawkeyes that scored in the game made at least half of their field goal attempts.
Iowa entered Sunday’s game second in the nation in assists, averaging 21.9 per game. The Hawkeyes handed out 25 assists on 30 made field goals against Northwestern. Doyle had seven, Stewart had six, and Davis added four.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The national anthem was sung by Solon (Iowa) High School student Emma Bluder, daughter of head coach Lisa Bluder.
“My daughter is incredibly talented in a different way than I am, obviously as you can tell from this voice,” Lisa Bluder said. “It was wonderful to have her share. When I left this morning, she said, ‘Mom, I’ll see you on the court.’ I was so nervous.”
As the second seed, the Hawkeyes open Big Ten Tournament play Friday, March 8, against either Minnesota (20-9) or Indiana (19-11) in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will begin at approximately 5:30 p.m. (CT).