INDIANAPOLIS — The resume for IU women's basketball is finalized.
After losing Friday 70-61 to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament, IU will have to wait 10 days to find out its NCAA Tournament fate.
IU picked up its biggest win of the 2018-19 season when it defeated Iowa on Feb. 21 in Bloomington . The Hoosiers fought back from a slow start to take a lead in the fourth quarter, but led by star senior forward Megan Gustafson, the Hawkeyes surged ahead in the game's final minutes to hold on, knocking IU out of the Big Ten tournament.
Iowa women’s basketball Coach Lisa Bluder smirked when she heard Gustafson recorded her 28th double-double of the season.
The accomplishment matched Iowa’s program record for double-doubles in a season, which was set by Gustafson last season.
The Hawkeyes were led by their star and Big Ten Player of the Year as Gustafson continued to punish the Hoosiers inside, scoring 30 points and collecting 17 rebounds.
It was also the 83rd double-double of Gustafson’s career. IU sophomore forward Linsey Marchese did everything she could in hopes of slowing Gustafson down.
But it still wasn’t enough.
“Yeah, she's got three — sometimes more people around her all the time,” Bluder said. “And she's still able to put up those kinds of numbers.”
For Gustafson it felt like nothing new.
“Yeah, it's pretty normal,” Gustafson said. “I have a big target on my back, and Indiana did a nice job of sending in extra players.”
IU got out to a slow start, similar to what it has in most losses this season. The Hoosiers shot 5-for-18 in the first quarter and scored 11 points, while Gustafson alone had eight.
But IU played even with Iowa in the second quarter, thanks in large part to eight first-half points from freshman guard Grace Berger and 11 from junior guard Ali Patberg.
“I knew my shot felt good in warm-ups, and I got in and hit a few,” Berger said. “So, I was just pretty confident, I guess, in that first quarter.”
Similar to the first matchup between the teams on Feb. 21 that IU won 75-73, IU Coach Teri Moren’s team came out strong in the third period.
Patberg continued to cause problems for the Hawkeyes’ defense, and behind her eight third-quarter points, IU cut the deficit to three heading into the final period.
The push continued behind Patberg in the fourth as IU continued to chip away and grabbed a 54-53 lead with less than six minutes remaining.
That’s when Iowa’s guards began to hit shots as they would continuously be left open due to IU’s double — and sometimes triple — teams on Gustafson.
“After playing Indiana the first time, we knew we were going to get open with threes,” junior guard Makenzie Meyer said. “Megan does such a great job of passing the ball out. The in-and-out three is such a good look for us, and we were really able to convert that tonight.”
IU continued to fight as sophomore guard Jaelynn Penn scored all five of her points in the final three minutes of the game, but Gustafson was too much.
Her presence inside limited IU’s ability to get into the paint late in the game, and her persistency on the boards — along with senior forward Hannah Stewart who had 13 rebounds — did not allow IU another shot at an upset.
Gustafson had her team’s final five points, all coming from the free throw line to shut down any chance for the Hoosiers.
“She's challenging, period,” Moren said. “You can play her five times, 10 times, it doesn't matter. She's going to be a challenge.”
In a battle between Patberg and Gustafson, it was the latter moving on to her first career Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Patberg finished her first Big Ten Tournament with 45 points in two games after averaging nearly 14 points per game in Big Ten regular season play.
It’s still unclear whether Patberg’s first season playing with IU will end in the NCAA Tournament or WNIT, but regardless he made her presence felt this year.
Bluder’s team struggled to defend Patberg the first time they saw her as the guard scored 21 points in the regular season matchup, but even the second time around was tough to gameplan for.
“She's able to create, and not only shoot threes, she's great off the bounce, and then she's got a little floater that's really, it's really hard to defend that,” Bluder said. “She's a really good player. Good get for Indiana.”
Patberg and her team will now wait until 7 p.m. March 18 to see whether the selection committee feels the team deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament.
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