AMES, Iowa — An ugly win never looked so good to Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder.
For the first time in 11 tries since 1989, the Hawkeyes won a game at Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum.
Iowa escaped with a 61-55 victory in front of a crowd of 10,916 on Wednesday night after the Cyclones missed three potential game-tying 3-point shots in the final 27 seconds before Iowa finished off the win by hitting three free throws over the final six seconds.
"It wasn't very pretty, but I don’t care. All we wanted was to come out with the victory," Bluder said in her postgame radio interview. "We didn’t play our best, but we got the win, and in this situation that was the only thing that mattered."
Iowa State held the Hawkeyes to a season-low 37.9-percent shooting, double- and triple-teaming Iowa’s Megan Gustafson from start to finish.
It didn’t matter.
The Hawkeyes overcame that with plenty of defense and rebounding of their own. Iowa limited Iowa State to a 29.5-percent game from the field and enjoyed a 46-36 edge on the boards that included 12 critical offensive boards.
"Our defense rose to the occasion, especially in the second quarter. Both teams really got after it, and we were able to do what we needed to do come away with the win," Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes limited the Cyclones to three points on 1-of-13 shooting in the second quarter, allowing Iowa to open a 26-19 halftime advantage.
"Basketball is a game of shooters and makers, and tonight we were shooting but we weren’t making," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "I had no probably with our effort or intensity. We couldn’t have played much better to hold them to 61 points, but we weren’t rewarded for our effort."
Makenzie Meyer, a sophomore from Mason City and one of two Iowa natives on the Hawkeye roster, helped Iowa build its early lead by hitting 4-of-4 shots from 3-point range in the first half on her way to a team-leading 18-point game.
"Everything felt good right from the start, right from warm-ups," Meyer said. "This is such a big win for us. We showed a lot of grit to come out of here with the ‘W.’"
Iowa State rallied in the third quarter, using a steal by Bridget Carleton that led to a lay-in by Emily Durr to tie the game at 38-38 with 1 minute, 46 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The Hawkeyes regained the lead seven seconds later on a free throw by Meyer and never trailed again, using a basket by Gustafson to take a 41-38 lead into the final quarter.
After a string of three straight offensive boards by Iowa, a jumper by Kathleen Doyle allowed the Hawkeyes to open a 48-39 advantage with 7:18 to play.
The Cyclones didn’t go away quietly, pulling within 54-53 on two free throws by Carleton with 1:28 remaining, but a feed by Gustafson to Hannah Stewart for a lay-in 10 seconds later allowed Iowa to regain a three-point edge.
Iowa State trailed by the same margin with :27 to go following a pair of free throws by Gustafson, but missed three-point shots, two by Carleton and one by Rae Johnson, denied the Cyclones the opportunity to tie the game one last time.
Gustafson collected her ninth double-double of the season for Iowa, which moved to 9-1 as the junior finished with 16 points to go with 14 rebounds.
Carleton connected on just 3-of-16 shots, but led three Iowa State players in double figures with a 17-point performance.
The loss extended a string of frustrating setbacks for the Cyclones (3-5), who have lost to all three of their in-state rivals for the first time since the 2002-03 season by a combined total of 12 points.