Iowa needed to bounce back quickly after their painful close loss to Florida State in mid-week -- and Samford proved to be just what the doctor ordered to boost Hawkeye confidence (and win totals). Iowa was blazing hot from the field to start the game: they made 77% of their shots from the field and 67% of their three-point attempts on their way to a 24-13 lead after one quarter. The shooting cooled off in the second quarter and Iowa led 38-28 at the half, but they pulled away in the second half to win 80-59.
The shooting didn't really improve much in the second half -- Iowa made just 46.7% of their shots (14/30) and 36.4% of their threes (4/11) and even went an uncharacteristic 66.7% (10/15) at the free throw line -- but they still managed to put together a 17-0 run over the third and fourth quarters that put the game firmly out of reach. On defense, they held Samford to 40.7% shooting in the second half (7/16 from 3-point range) and kept the Bulldogs from making any sort of sustained run. For the game, Samford edged Iowa on points off turnovers (12-11) and kept it close in second chance points (10-12), but Iowa trounced them in bench points (27-12) and points in the paint (40-24).
There was a direct connection between those bench points and points in the paint advantages for Iowa: Hannah Stewart. Stewart, a 6-2 junior forward, scored a career-high 17 points on 7/9 shooting by doing work down low. She was joined by Iowa's usual low post force to be reckoned with, Megan Gustafson, who put up 18 points on 8/13 shooting to go with 11 rebounds, her eighth double-double in nine games this season. Kathleen Doyle was the only other Hawkeye in double figures, with 14 points on 4/6 shooting (3/3 from long range), to go with her five rebounds and six assists. Assists were flowing freely for Iowa on Sunday -- they recorded assists on 25 of their 30 made baskets and three Hawkeyes had at least five assists in the game. Makenzie Meyer didn't have her shot going yesterday (five points on 1/5 shooting), but she still dished out five assists. Tania Davis had a team-high seven assists to go with her eight points on 3/7 shooting. Alexis Sevillian wasn't quite the sharpshooter that she's been in recent games (she had four points on 2/6 shooting, and attempted just one three-point shot), but she did have three assists. The full box score is available here.
Overall, this wasn't a sparkling performance from Iowa -- they turned the ball over 13 times, were played to a virtual draw by Samford on the offensive glass (Iowa had 15, Samford had 14), and they were unusually poor at the free throw line (just 68% overall) -- but they still won comfortably and showed the offensive firepower that's going to make them such a difficult out this year. The win over Samford and (more importantly) their narrow loss to #13 Florida State earned them a bit more recognition in the Top 25 rankings, too. They went from receiving 17 votes in the AP poll last week to getting 26 votes this week.
Gustafson, who was named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List, had a stellar week -- 26.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 bpg, 74.2% shooting -- which deservedly earned her Big Ten Player of the Week honors:
Megan Gustafson of @IowaWBB is the #B1GWBBall Player of the Week after averaging 26.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 1.5 bpg with a .742 FG% last week, including a career-high 34 pts (on 15-18 FG) last Wednesday against Florida State pic.twitter.com/BU24cFkVLZ
— B1G Women's Hoops (@B1Gwbball) December 4, 2017
This marks the fourth straight week Gustafson has earned some of weekly recognition from the conference -- she was named Player of the Week back on November 13 and she's been on the Player of the Week Honor Roll the two previous weeks. If she keeps putting up numbers like this, though, she'll be getting many more awards from the Big Ten.
NEXT: Iowa returns to action against in-state rival Iowa State on Wednesday in Ames (6:30 PM CT, Cyclones.TV). ISU is 3-4 this year and has lost three in a row entering this game. But three of their four losses this season have been by four points or less, including a pair of three-point defeats to Drake and Vanderbilt last week. They're always a tough out in Ames, too, so Iowa will need to be on top of their game to come away with a win.