Iowa junior Megan Gustafson explains how she deals with double, triple teams. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral
It’s been a steady stream of dominance this season for Megan Gustafson, who’s put the Iowa women’s basketball team on her shoulders and has the Hawkeyes on the NCAA Tournament’s doorstep.
Monday, Gustafson was rewarded with the conference’s highest award.
The Iowa junior forward and All-American candidate was named the media’s Big Ten player of the year. Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell was named the player of the year by the coaches. Gustafson is Iowa’s first conference player of the year since Tangela Smith in 1998.
Kathleen Doyle earned second team all-Big Ten honors from the coaches and honorable mention accolades from the media as well.
“This means a lot,” said Gustafson, who was also voted a unanimous first-team all-Big Ten selection. “I’ve put in so much work the past three years at Iowa, but at the end of the day, I’ve had amazing support here. My teammates, my coaches, and the support staff have all been amazing. I’m just really excited to keep this going."
Gustafson’s numbers this season are almost unfathomable. She’s put up 26 double-doubles this season in 29 games, set single-season program records for points and rebounds and leads the country in countless statistical categories.
Entering Monday, she ranks first nationally in points per game (25.3), fifth in rebounds per game (12.8), second in field-goal percentage (66.7) and top-5 in five other categories. Gustafson’s overwhelming statistical domination has resulted in a record nine Big Ten player of the week awards.
Still, Mitchell’s standout season and career-long status as one of women’s basketball's elites made Gustafson’s selection far from a slam dunk. The Iowa sports information department created VoteGustafson.com to highlight all her accomplishments, hoping her profile would continue trending nationally.
In the end, Gustafson's case was too strong to overlook.
“It’s a dream come to play the sport that I love with the people I love," Gustafson said. "At the end of the day I just have to thank my teammates, my coaches and my family.”
The humble forward from tiny Port Wing, Wisconsin, has been quick to deflect the spotlight all season, instead choosing to highlight her teammates’ contributions to her success.
Her fellow Hawkeyes, though, know just how special this season’s been.
"I don't know how she catches some of the passes we make to her," senior forward Chase Coley said after Saturday’s win over Indiana. "I like to think I'm a pretty good passer, but sometimes, I'm just, like, 'Here, go get it.' And she does.
"When you're in the game with Megan, you pass it to her and coach Bluder's, like, 'Go crash!' And I'm, like, 'Well, she's probably going to make it.' She makes some amazing finishes."
Iowa opens the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday around 1:30 p.m. The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes will face the winner of Wisconsin and Northwestern.
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.