INDIANAPOLIS — As the final seconds ran off the clock following a championship performance in a championship game, Megan Gustafson savored a couple of seconds for herself.
Iowa’s senior center dropped to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks to briefly celebrate what she and the Hawkeyes had earned.
Gustafson scored half of Iowa’s points and recorded her 30th double-double of the season in the Hawkeyes’ 90-76 victory over top-seeded Maryland in the championship game of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament.
“We wanted this so badly, all of us,’’ Gustafson said. “I couldn’t come up with any words. Hannah (Stewart) was like ‘We did it, we finally did it.’ We all did it, all of us as teammates. All I’ve ever cared about is winning and everything is bigger than the moment right now.’’
The victory gave the Hawkeye program its third championship in five tries, and its first since the first of coach Lisa Bluder’s 19 Iowa teams won the Big Ten tourney in 2001.
“This meant so much to all of us, Every one of us, we’ve been working all year for this moment,’’ Gustafson said. “I was going to do everything in my willpower to make this happen.’’
Her 45-point performance came as part of a 17-of-24 shooting performance that was complemented by an 11-of-14 effort at the line.
Gustafson grabbed 10 rebounds and rejected three Maryland shots.
Terrapins coach Brenda Frese had seen it all before. Gustafson scored 31 points in Iowa’s 86-73 win over her team three weeks earlier at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We don’t have an answer for her,’’ Frese said.
In being named the most outstanding player in the Big Ten tourney, Gustafson totaled 95 points and 39 rebounds to help Iowa (26-6) add three wins to its resume.
She was joined on the all-tournament team by Stewart, Maryland’s Kaila Charles, Stasha Carey of Rutgers and Indiana’s Ali Patberg.
“Nothing Megan does surprises me anymore,’’ Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “Whatever we give her, she just goes after it and does it. I’m so proud of all of the team tonight and I hate to single somebody out, but Megan, pretty special kid.’’
After three physical games in three days, that special kid has a championship to call her own.
“We poured our heart into that game,’’ Gustafson said. “If we wouldn’t have won, we would have been proud of our effort, but you know, the emotions that come with it, it’s been pretty special.’’