IOWA CITY – It wasn’t a Picasso. Not even a Grant Wood.
But, a 77-71 victory over visiting Nebraska was exactly what the 19th-rated Iowa women’s basketball team needed Thursday.
The Hawkeyes held off a late charge by the Cornhuskers to rebound from a loss in Sunday’s Big Ten opener.
"Too many missed free throws, too many turnovers at the beginning and at the end, but I’m happy with the win," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
"You need to be able to win one like every once in a while. There are some good lessons to be learned from this game, and to be able to learn them in a win as opposed to having to learn them after a loss, that’s a good thing."
Megan Gustafson separated Iowa from Nebraska with a run of 10 straight points for the Hawkeyes during the final three minutes of the third quarter.
The Hawkeye senior, presented two basketballs prior to the game for becoming Iowa’s career scoring and rebounding leader last month, spent most of the night sandwiched between two Cornhuskers but broke free for 16 of her 28 points and eight of her 17 rebounds in the final two quarters.
"I was able to get things going a bit in the second half," Gustafson said. "I have to know especially in the Big Ten, I’m going to have a pretty big target on my back and I have to be ready for that, find ways to do what I can do."
Her most important points came as she extended a 49-46 lead by scoring the Hawkeyes' final 10 points of the third quarter as Iowa built a 59-59 cushion.
That proved to be enough of a margin to withstand a rough stretch that started a little past the midpoint of the fourth quarter, shortly after Hannah Stewart scored two of her 14 points to give the Hawkeyes a 69-57 advantage.
"We made this harder than it had to be," Bluder said. "… But, we didn’t panic. We kept at it."
So did the Cornhuskers.
"We continued to scratch and claw, and that is the culture we’re trying to establish," Nebraska coach Amy Williams said.
Turnovers and missed free throws, including missing four-of-six attempts in an eight-second span with under 30 seconds remaining, became problematic for Iowa.
Nebraska (7-7, 2-1 Big Ten) whittled the Hawkeye lead to 73-71 on two of Leigha Brown’s team-high 20 points with :26 to play before Iowa inched its way to the win.
Tania Davis and Alexis Sevillian each hit the first of two free throws with :22 and :18 to play, but Stewart chased down rebounds following both misses to give the Hawkeyes (10-3, 1-1).
"I wanted to keep the ball in on our end of the court, whatever it took," Stewart said. "Just keep the ball in our hands and give us more chances."
Gustafson, who missed two free throws with :14 remaining, hit a pair eight seconds later to give Iowa its winning margin.
"We got the win. We learn from this and now we move on to the next one," Gustafson said.