IOWA CITY – It’s gotten to the point that when Megan Gustafson doesn’t record a double-double, Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder begins to worry.
“We’ve come to expect it out of Megan, a double-double every time out. We don’t take it for granted, there’s nothing easy about it, but I think she expects it of herself,’’ Bluder said. “She’s certainly plays that way.’’
The Hawkeyes’ junior hasn’t disappointed.
Gustafson has posted double-digit scoring and rebounding performances in each of Iowa’s games this season, adding to a collection of 34 double-doubles the 6-foot-3 forward and post player has recorded during collegiate career.
That has helped the Hawkeyes open the season at 7-0, the program’s best start since the 2010 season.
Iowa will be tested by 13th-rated Florida State today, hosting a Seminoles team off to a 6-0 start in a 7 p.m. ACC-Big Ten Challenge match-up at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
For Gustafson and the Hawkeyes, the challenge includes dealing with Florida State’s two-time all-American forward, Shakayla Thomas, and post player Chatrice White, an Illinois transfer.
Gustafson’s plans remain unchanged.
She will do her thing.
“My game is my game. I just let things come to me and take what’s there and not try to force anything,’’ she said. “I’ve worked to improve and compete at this level, but not forcing things has been my approach since high school and it’s worked.’’
A returning all-Big Ten selection after averaging 18.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season, Gustafson has raised those numbers to 21.3 points per game and 13.4 rebounds during the opening weeks of the current season.
Gustafson also continues to shoot the ball well. She ranked third in NCAA Division I a year ago with a 64.7-percent touch from the field and she currently leads the Big Ten with 68.1-percent shooting three weeks into the current season.
Mostly, she continues to impress Bluder with her consistency.
“Every night, every practice, doesn’t matter, road game, home game, she plays the same way all the time,’’ Bluder said. “It’s not human nature to go with 100-percent effort every single second you’re on the floor, but she does it.’’
Gustafson has a simple motivation this season.
She has yet to compete in an NCAA tournament game and after narrowly missing the field the past two seasons, team success tops her priority list.
“There is an extra chip on my shoulder,’’ Gustafson said. “I know that’s the case for my teammates, too, especially the juniors. We haven’t experienced that at all and we’ve heard so much about how amazing it is to be the NCAA tourney, it’s driving all of us.’’
Gustafson is working to become more of a vocal leader this season.
It’s a new role for a player who has traditionally led by example.
“I’ve been around for a couple of years now and I’m more comfortable being vocal with my teammates and leading that way, too,’’ Gustafson said. “We’re all here working toward the same goal and the players who have been here, we’re trying to help the young players as much as we can.’’
Gustafson has benefited from that type of help since arriving at Iowa from her high school in Port Wing, Wisconsin, where she was part of a senior class of 12 at South Shore High School.
She credits Iowa assistant coach Jan Jensen with helping her develop her post game.
“I’ve come along way my first two years, working with coach Jensen on my moves and working to become a more consistent player,’’ Gustafson said. “You never stop learning in this game. I’m a better all-around player now because of what I’ve learned here, but I always feel like I can do more.’’
That comes naturally.
“I’ve always liked to work on my game and see what I can do to get better,’’ Gustafson said. “I look at what I got done last year compared to my freshman year and I want to take that same type of step again, just keep at it, keep working.’’