Fans attending the Nebraska women’s basketball game against Iowa on Monday at Pinnacle Bank Arena will get a live look at a player they’ll probably be seeing on TV and hearing more about during the final month of the college season.
That player is Iowa’s Megan Gustafson. To start with, the 6-foot-3 senior center is currently the NCAA Division I scoring leader by averaging 27.4 points per game. She also leads the NCAA in field-goal percentage (70.4) and is fourth in rebounding (13.1).
She’s about as close to a lock as there can be for being the Big Ten Conference player of the year, and will probably also be in consideration for national player of the year.
And Gustafson plays on a good team, so you’ll probably be watching her on TV in the later rounds of the Big Ten Tournament, and then in the NCAA Tournament. Iowa was ranked No. 10 last week in The Associated Press poll, which was its first time in the top 10 since 1996. But the Hawkeyes (21-6, 12-4 Big Ten) lost last week and may drop out of the top 10.
The game against Nebraska begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Gustafson scored 28 points and had 17 rebounds when Iowa beat Nebraska 77-71 in January.
Gustafson came to Iowa from Port Wing, Wisconsin, where she was the all-time leading scorer in the state. Here are just a few of her college accomplishments:
* She's Iowa's all-time leading scorer, surpassing both the previous Iowa women's record-holder, Ally Disterhoft (2,102), and the prior men's record holder, Roy Marble (2,116). Gustafson has 2,542 career points.
* During 12 of 15 weeks this season, Gustafson has been named the Big Ten player of the week.
* Her career high for points is 48, when Iowa played Minnesota last season. Gustafson has surpassed 30 points nine times this season, including games of 44 and 41 points.
Last season, Gustafson was the NCAA statistical champion in points per game (25.7) and field-goal percentage (67.1).
“It really is amazing what she has done in back-to-back years,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder in a story by The Associated Press. “When I met with her at the end of last year I said, ‘Well, you know you’re probably not going to do this again.’ And now here she is, proving me wrong. She is doing it again — and she’s doing it even better.”
Gustafson has scored 20 or more points in 24 of 27 games, with her season low being 13.
There are many players who have had special games this season, but nobody has done so like Gustafson.
“I think her consistency is what makes her so unique, in knowing that every single team you’re playing is coming up with a game plan to try to slow you down,” said Nebraska coach Amy Williams. “And that includes double-teams and face-guards, and full fronts and play behind. She’s seen everything and she’s still able to find ways to put up consistently those numbers.”
Williams says high school players could learn from closely watching Gustafson.
“The biggest thing that we’ve tried to learn from her is that she’s very active with her feet,” Williams said. “So if you’re a post player and you’re trying to watch some things, watching how she maintains positioning by really just moving her feet. I think a lot of post players get caught up in trying to wrestle around and use their upper body to gain positioning, and she just does such a great job of doing it with her feet.”
Nebraska will honor senior Maddie Simon in a ceremony after the game. She's played in 105 games in her Husker career, scoring nearly 700 points while grabbing more than 300 rebounds.