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Iowa Women Edge Mercer in NCAA Hoops Opener

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) – The Big 10 Tournament Champion Iowa Hawkeyes Women’s basketball team narrowly avoided an upset bid in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday afternoon, beating the 15-seed Mercer Bears by a score of 66-61.

“Getting that win I think there may be a little jitters from, collectively, and just kind of getting through that first game. You know we got to get through that first game in order to keep playing. Honestly, it feels really good to get that first win no matter how ugly it was,” Megan Gustafson said.

Mercer excelled where the Hawkeyes struggled — maintaining the ball. The bears had just 3 turnovers in the game compared to Iowa’s 24 which kept the Hawks on their toes all game long.

“We’re disappointed in the turnovers and I don’t know if it was nerves. I’m not sure if it was rust from two weeks. I don’t know but that was pretty uncharacteristic but I don’t want to take anything away from Mercer because I thought coming into they were a really good defensive team,” Head Coach Lisa Bluder said.

Megan Gustafson again played a large leading role for the Hawkeyes, as the Senior standout scored 30 points on a 14-16 performance (88%) from the field during Friday’s opening-round win. Gustafson also nabbed 16 rebounds.

The next leading scorer for Iowa was Junior guard Makenzie Meyer, who poured in 16 points for the Hawks. Meyer tied her career-high of five threes.

“It was nice to take some weight off Megan’s shoulders because we know she does much for us but my teammates just put me in a really good position. They were really digging in on the drive, Mercer was really digging in on the drive so it opened a lot of 3 opportunities for us. Luckily, I was able to knock them down today,” Meyer said.

Coach Bluder said the team made the necessary stops to win down the stretch but she also credited the crowd for lifting them up.

“I want to thank this crowd for coming up. Our crowd was fabulous today. They probably helped us get those five points we needed,” she said.

Iowa’s win over Mercer gave Gustafson her first NCAA Tournament win of her a career. In the post-game conference, Bluder announced Gustafson broke the Big Ten record for the most points and rebounds in a season.

Hawkeyes move on to play no. 7 Missouri on Sunday after the Tigers knocked out Iowa’s Drake 77-76.

Jalyn Souchek

Reporter

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