The women’s Iowa basketball team lost to Baylor, and with that comes the conclusion of three great careers. The legacy they built, however, will live on.
Lisa Bluder’s Iowa basketball team’s fantastic run ended last night in an 85-53 loss to the #1 ranked Baylor Bears. It marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in Iowa basketball history, and it also marked the end of three great careers from Megan Gustafson, Tania Davis, and Hannah Stewart.
Although many people would have loved to see the women advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1993, the Baylor Bears length and size was ultimately too much for the Hawks last night. In addition to the great defense by Baylor, the Iowa basketball team didn’t seem to have it’s shot early outside of Megan Gustafson and Kathleen Doyle, which allowed the Bears to build a 14-point lead heading into the half.
The second half saw much of the same as Baylor continued to build it’s lead ultimately resulting in a 32-point loss. All-American and ESPNW Player of the Year Megan Gustafson once again led the team in points and rebounds with 23 and 9 falling one rebound short of another double-double. Despite giving up four inches to Baylor’s Kalani Brown, Gustafson found a way to get her shots to drop shooting over 50% on the night. Kathleen Doyle and Tania Davis added in 10 points each.
While the loss certainly stings for the fans, I can only imagine the hurt the ladies are feeling today after such a remarkable run to take the women’s Iowa basketball team to the first Elite Eight in nearly thirty years.
However, what’s important to remember today is the journey that this team took to get there and how inspirational this group has been to a fanbase, a state, and young females all over. It wasn’t exactly easy. Gustafson was lightly recruited out of a small town in Wisconsin and worked tirelessly to perfect her craft. Davis dealt with multiple serious injuries to get to this point, and Stewart overcame some early career adversity to work her way in the starting lineup for one of the best women’s basketball teams in the nation.
What’s truly special though is how these ladies went about their careers. They weren’t just working hard to be the best basketball players they could be, but they managed to do it with class, humility, and charm. Senior guard Tania Davis summed it up pretty well in last night’s post-game press conference.
"I feel like our legacy just completely different, but at the same time, I feel like we’re all just great people. We’re great individuals off the court and I feel like that’s the legacy we’d rather leave, as opposed to, you know, the players that we have."
So again, while this end of season loss certainly stings, remember the ride that we all took with this incredible group of ladies for the entire season. That’s certainly what head coach Lisa Bluder is doing.
"I’m going to try not to remember this game. To me, I’m going to remember cutting down the Nets with these guys after winning a Big Ten Championship. I’m going to remember Tania’s results coming back. I’m going to remember Hannah Stewart’s journey. I’m going to remember getting the opportunity to coach one of the best basketball players in America in Megan, and that’s what I’m going to remember about this season."
Gustafson, Davis, and Stewart will be graduating this spring and going in different directions. Gustafson is likely heading to the WNBA while Davis and Stewart could likely find a spot in Europe or as coaches if they so choose, but these three will always be remembered as the senior trio for one of the best Iowa basketball teams to ever step foot in Iowa City.
Their legacy will live on through the thousands of young women that now grow up wanting to be an Iowa Hawkeye just like they were.