GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina State didn’t let Elissa Cunane go to battle alone Saturday.
The 6-foot-5 Wolfpack freshman had the help of teammates in dealing with Iowa All-American Megan Gustafson in the Hawkeyes’ 79-61 victory in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
And when that happened, experience taught Gustafson exactly what to do.
"When I saw her along with another teammate doubling it, I was able to hit my guards, and they were able to hit," Gustafson said. “After that, I was able to get a little bit open inside so it starts with crediting my teammates for hitting those shots."
Gustafson hit her share of shots as well. She attempted just one in the first quarter — and hit it — but finished the game by connecting on 10-of-13 attempts from the field.
Cunane made Gustafson work for her 27 points.
"It was definitely a really good battle," Gustafson said. "She’s a really great center who has a really great career ahead of her. We were both working hard down there."
Gustafson held her own defensively against the first-year collegian who entered the game having averaged 17.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in 10 games since moving into the Wolfpack starting five.
She limited Cunane to 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting, well below her season shooting percentage of 56.5 percent from the field.
Cunane said Gustafson’s work was something she can learn from as her own career progresses.
"She kept her composure very well on court," Cunane said. "Just her style of play, the way she was directing her players and the leadership, those are all things I can learn from."
Pick your poison: North Carolina State coach Wes Moore knew he was taking a risk when he chose to have his team double down defensively on Megan Gustafson.
Iowa answered by hitting seven of the 18 shots it attempted from 3-point range, with Tania Davis, Makenzie Meyer and Alexis Sevillian each knocked down a pair from behind the arc.
"They shot the heck out of it from 3-point range, and that’s what you’ve got to hope doesn’t happen when you’re playing them because you’re going to have to give something up," Moore said. "You’ve got to pick your poison, and they made us pay."
A peek ahead: Iowa will be facing Baylor in Monday’s Elite Eight match-up for the first time since the Bears knocked the Hawkeyes out of the 2015 NCAA tourney, winning an 81-66 Sweet 16 game in Oklahoma City.
The match-up will challenge Gustafson and Hannah Stewart, who now must deal with Baylor’s 6-foot-7 senior center Kalani Brown and 6-4 junior forward Lauren Cox.
"I think everyone would look forward to that match-up," Gustafson said. "We’re just going to go into it, play our hearts out."
History lesson: Saturday’s win moves Iowa into the Elite Eight in the NCAA tourney for fourth time in program history but for the first time since 1993.
C. Vivian Stringer led the Hawkeyes to each of their first three Elite Eight appearances, in 1987 and 1988 along with the 1993 season that marked the program’s only Final Four appearance.
Coach Lisa Bluder, who previously led Iowa to its most recent Sweet 16 appearance in 2015, views the Elite Eight appearance as a milestone.
"You always want to take your program as high as you can and make it as good as you can, so this certainly was a step for us," Bluder said. "We had not been as a coaching staff to an Elite Eight, so it was really important to us and really important to our players."
Grand game: Two Hawkeye seniors will take the court in Monday’s 6 p.m. Elite Eight match-up with Baylor nearing a milestone.
Davis will need just three points to reach 1,000 points in her career while Gustafson enters the game 22 points away from becoming the first Iowa player ever to score 1,000 points in a season.
To put Gustafson’s work in perspective, the most points a Hawkeye senior had scored in a season before this year were the 672 Cindy Haugejorde collected during the 1979-80 season.
Record win: Iowa improved to 29-6 with its win over North Carolina State on Saturday, matching the program’s highest win total ever.
The Hawkeyes also won 29 games during 1987-88, a 29-2 season which ended with a loss to Long Beach State in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tourney.