INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Megan Gustafson kept challenging Maryland inside.
One by one, she batted each defender away.
Gustafson scored 26 points in the first half, finished with 45 and led No. 10 Iowa past No. 8 Maryland 90-76 on Sunday for the Hawkeyes’ first Big Ten Tournament title since 2001.
“This means everything,” said Gustafson, the overwhelming choice as the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player. “This was the only thing that I really cared about.”
Gustafson posted the second-highest single-game scoring total in tourney history, trailing only the 48 she had in last year’s quarterfinal loss to Minnesota.
The two-time conference player of the year also grabbed 10 rebounds, went 11-of-14 from the free-throw line, drew 13 fouls and had three blocks.
And now that she’s finally earned the title of Big Ten champion, the Hawkeyes (26-6) can focus on bigger goals after capturing their first tourney crown in 16 years.
“Having confetti falling on you is the best feeling in the world,” Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle said.
Gustafson’s quick start helped Iowa take a 17-7 lead, and the Big Ten regular-season champs never led again.
The best the Terps could do was tie the score at 53 with 7:21 left in the third quarter.
“We didn’t have an answer for her,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I’m not sure anyone in the country does.”