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Gustafson scores 45 to help No. 10 Iowa take Big 10 title

Iowa's Megan Gustafson (10) celebrates after being fouled during Sunday's win over Maryland in the Big Ten tournament championship game.

INDIANAPOLIS — Confetti was still falling from the rafters of Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse during Iowa’s Big Ten championship celebration Sunday when Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder reminded the crowd of one thing.

“We’re going to enjoy every bit of this championship, but we’re not done yet,’’ Bluder said shortly after the Hawkeyes earned their first Big Ten tourney title since 2001 by beating top-seeded Maryland, 90-76.

That’s something Iowa players understood long before completing their three-day run in the Big Ten tourney to craft a 26-6 resume for the NCAA selection committee to study this week.

“As good as this feels, we don’t want it to end,’’ senior guard Tania Davis said. “We want to play as many games as we can together in Iowa uniforms to see where it can lead.’’

The Hawkeyes won’t find out what the next step in their journey will be until Monday, when pairings for the NCAA women’s tourney are unveiled at 6 p.m.

Success at the Big Ten Championships allowed Iowa to add two more victories against opponents with top-25 RPIs to its resume.

The Hawkeyes, who currently have an RPI of seventh nationally and a strength of schedule ranked 11th, have six victories this season against teams currently with RPIs of 30 or higher.

Those include nonconference wins over an Iowa State team with an RPI of 10 and a Drake team sitting at ,in addition to two wins apiece over Big Ten foes Rutgers and Maryland, currently with RPIs of 14 and 28, respectively.

Iowa could be eying a No. 2 seed for the NCAA tourney and has likely positioned itself to host first- and second-round games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where games could be played March 22-25.

But first, the Hawkeyes will be given a chance to catch their breath before attempting to help Bluder earn the 750th victory of a career that began at St. Ambrose.

Iowa dealt with physical defenses played by the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins in the Big Ten semifinals and finals and Big Ten player of the year Megan Gustafson wore a wrap just above her right wrist in those games as well.

“It’s no big deal,’’ Gustafson said following a 20-point semifinal performance, a day before she scored 45 while wearing the protective tape in the finals.

What is a big deal to the Hawkeyes is a chance to build on the momentum they gained in Indianapolis.

“I think winning this championship puts us in a great position going into the NCAA Tournament, gives us confidence to hopefully get a high seed and get Carver rocking,’’ guard Kathleen Doyle said.

That will come later.

For now, the Hawkeyes will recharge and then refocus.

“I think we all can use a couple of days, and then we’ll be ready to get it going again,’’ Gustafson said. “We’re excited about where we’re at, but we don’t want it end here. We want to see what we accomplish, how far we can take it.’’

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