It's been quite a week for Iowa athletes against opponents from South Dakota. On Wednesday, the Iowa men beat South Dakota in the first round of the NIT. On Saturday night, Cory Clark beat South Dakota State's Seth Gross to win a national championship. The Iowa softball team won their first two games of the weekend against South Dakota State, too. And yesterday the Iowa women's basketball team got in on the action, edging past South Dakota 78-73 to win their second game in the WNIT and advance to the Sweet 16.
In Iowa's first WNIT win, Ally Disterhoft's record-breaking performance was the lead story, but yesterday the lead story was the player who seems destined to replace Disterhoft as the team's primary star, Megan Gustafson. Because Gustafson had herself a game.
Gustafson led Iowa with 33 points and also had 13 rebounds because getting double-doubles is just what she does (it was her 17th of the season). She also could not miss from the floor, shooting 15/16 (!) from the field. She was an absolute force of nature for Iowa yesterday and USD had no answer for her. This was especially true late; when Iowa needed buckets, they dumped the ball to Gustafson in the post and let her go to work. And time after time, it worked as she made shots and converted free throws to carry Iowa to victory. She scored 9 of 11 points for Iowa in a key stretch late in the game and was utterly dominant.
Thanks to Gustafson's efforts, Iowa crushed South Dakota in the post, outscoring them 36-16 in the paint. In addition to Gustafson, Hannah Stewart added 11 points on 5/6 shooting off the bench. Iowa needed those points in the paint, because they weren't getting much production from outside -- Iowa made just 4/16 shots from deep. Ally Disterhoft's shot wasn't falling (she was just 2/10 from the floor), but she made 5/6 free throws and still had 10 points, while also grabbing four rebounds, three assists, and three blocks, including a key stop late in the game. Kathleen Doyle and Makenzie Meyer also struggled to find their shots (they were a combined 5/20), but they also combined for 11 assists, six rebounds, and three steals (against three total turnovers).
Iowa jumped out to an early lead in the game and led 21-12 after the first quarter, but South Dakota roared back in the second quarter and Iowa had just a 35-34 lead at half. The second half was a pretty tight, back-and-forth affair as well, with Iowa nursing a small lead over South Dakota until late in the fourth quarter when they were finally able to extend their lead behind Gustafson's steady stream of points. South Dakota didn't shoot very well from the floor (24/59, or 40.7%), but they made enough threes (9/25, 36%) and got quite a few points off turnovers (18 from 15 Iowa giveaways) that it helped them stay close. It just wasn't enough to get them past Mt. Gustafson.
Megan Gustafson had herself a ball game! 33 pts and 13 rebs as the Hawks advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the WNIT! https://t.co/fKlyj4WNk8— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) March 18, 2017
With the win, Iowa advances to the Sweet 16 round of the WNIT (the men's NIT is a 32-team tournament, while the WNIT is a 64-team tournament, which explains why Iowa needed to win twice to make it to the final 16). Their opponent is still TBA. They'll play the winner of today's Colorado/South Dakota State game (yes, another South Dakota team!). Date and location information for that game are also TBA.