More than just Gustafson led to Big Ten Championship
The No. 2 seeded Iowa Hawkeyes were a force to be reckoned with this weekend as the team traveled to Indianapolis and walked away as Big Ten Champions, defeating No. 1 Maryland 90-76. Many point directly to Megan Gustafson as the reason why the Hawkeyes won the Big Ten tournament and deservedly so. Gustafson scored 95 points in three games en route to the title.
That said, no team can do it alone and Iowa is no exception. Among Gustafson’s teammates, senior Hannah Stewart also had a fantastic week in Indianapolis earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Tournament Team.
“We have really great guards who just focus and try to give her (Gustafson) the ball,” Kathleen Doyle said after the game. “Hannah Stewart comes in and makes plays for us too. You can’t discard Megan because we have other players on our team that will make you pay.”
Fans of the Big Ten are no stranger to Stewart and the impact that she has on the court. She has played 911 minutes this year and has started every game for Iowa this year. She averages 11.3 points per game and adds another 6.7 rebounds per game. Stewart is one of the senior leaders on the 2018-19 Hawkeyes team and is a certified scorer on the opposite side of Gustafson.
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In Iowa’s first game of the Big Ten Tournament, Stewart scored nine points in 34 minutes for the Hawkeyes in the team’s 70-61 win over Indiana. Stewart also had 13 rebounds, two assists, and one steal. The win set up a matchup vs. Rutgers, one of the toughest challenges for Iowa in the 2018-19 season.
“Hannah is an incredible post player down low with me and she’s really going to battle every single day and she’s just an incredible finisher, an incredible person,” Gustafson said after the win vs. Maryland on Sunday afternoon.
Stewart was one of three Iowa players to score in double figures in the March 9 semifinal win vs. Rutgers. Winning by just five (72-67), the team relied on both Gustafson and Stewart to finish at the basket down the stretch and the duo didn’t let the team down. Stewart scored 14 points while pulling in seven rebounds to go with Gustafson’s 20 point, 12 rebound effort. Stewart also had one block, one steal, and one assist in the win.
In the Big Ten Championship, the Hawkeyes took the opening tip-off and didn’t look back. While Maryland stuck around for a while, Iowa took a ten-point first quarter lead and kept pushing until the final whistle. The Terrapins would inch closer behind Kaila Charles and her career-high 36 points but could never completely close the gap. Stewart had eight points and nine rebounds in the win, closing out a fantastic conference tournament by the Minot, North Dakota native.
“You know we went to Brazil this summer together and worked hard there, and just to be able to keep playing with her has been really special,” Gustafson said after the game. “I was just crying, to be honest. I could really get many words but I think Hannah was like, we did it, we finally did it and that’s just been incredible. It’s really been a dream come true.”
The Hawkeyes head into the NCAA Tournament with a 26-6 record and a five-game winning streak. Since a Feb. 1 loss to Michigan, Iowa is 10-1 and are playing a team that could advance to Tampa Bay if they continue at their current pace. Iowa will learn what seed they earned during the March 18 selection show. From there, the Hawkeyes will play on either Friday, March 22 or Saturday, March 23 in the first round. The Hawkeyes look to advance further than last year where the team was given a No. 6 seed and fell to No. 11 Creighton in the first round.