IOWA CITY | Iowa got a career day from sophomore post Megan Gustafson in a 78-73 victory over South Dakota in a second-round WNIT game Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Gustafson, a 6-3 sophomore, made 15 of 16 shots from the field and poured in a career-high 33 points as the Hawkeyes (19-13) advanced to the second round against either South Dakota State or Colorado later this week.
South Dakota (23-9), the defending WNIT champion, had trouble containing the Hawkeyes inside. Not only did Gustafson post her 17th career double-double, adding 13 rebounds, but Hannah Stewart matched her career high with 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting.
Gustafson made her first four shots, then missed her fifth, but made her next 11, including a 10-for-10 performance in the second half.
“I don’t even know what to say about Megan anymore,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said after her 698th career victory. “I mean, amazing. She is an incredible human being, too. She’s fun to be around and always positive.”
Gustafson, an All-Big Ten player, set both a school and arena record for field goal accuracy. She and Stewart combined to shoot 20-for-22 and score 44 points.
“I was really proud of how our team competed throughout the course of the game,” South Dakota Coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “We certainly dug ourselves a bit of a hole early, but to weather that storm and come back and be close at halftime, even having an opportunity going into the fourth quarter with the score tied, and then one shot, one rebound, something goes our way, it can be a different outcome.
“But it wasn’t and I thought Iowa did a good job of continuing to attack our low post players. When we tried to double they dumped it down for a layup opportunity. So we tried a couple different ways to guard it, including going to a zone. Gustafson got a huge rebound at the end of the game and not because our players weren’t trying, she’s just a little better than our players in that position at that time and that possession.”
Sophomore guard Allison Arens, a first-team All-Summit League honoree, had 24 points, six assists, six rebounds and three steals for South Dakota. She concludes her sophomore campaign ranked seventh on USD’s single season scoring charts with 548 points.
Sophomore Jaycee Bradley and freshman Ciara Duffy added 17 and 14 points, respectively. Bradley was 6-for-8 from the field and 5 of 6 from the arc.
The Coyotes erased an early nine-point deficit by outscoring Iowa 22-12 the final six minutes of the first half. Bradley hit threes on back-to-back possessions and USD took a 34-33 lead before Iowa’s Ally Disterhoft made two free throws with four seconds left.
Disterhoft, Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, made just 2 of 10 shots and finished with 10 points.
There were five lead changes and three ties in the final 5:36 of the third quarter, which ended with the score tied 55-55.
Iowa scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, but the Coyotes closed the gap to 72-70 on a 3-pointer by Duffy with 1:09 remaining. After grabbing an offensive rebound to extend the clock, Gustafson scored with 25 seconds left to put the Hawkeyes ahead by four.
A missed jumper on the next possession forced USD to foul and Alexa Kastanek iced the victory from the free throw line.
“I think it’s disappointing to end that way, but I think every girl on our team really bought into what we were trying to accomplish today,” said Bridget Arens, who along with Abigail Fogg played their final games in a Coyote uniform. “We may not have come out on top, but I think everybody gave their best effort and we hope to do that every time we step on the floor.”
South Dakota was in contention for its third straight Summit League title until the final week of the season despite losing four of five starters from last year. The fifth starter, Caitlin Duffy, missed the entire season because of an injury, as did key reserve Jasmine Trimboli.
The school will apply for a sixth season for Duffy, while Trimboli could also be awarded a medical hardship. USD’s roster also included seven underclassmen.