No. 2 Iowa survives Mercer 66-61
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Megan Gustafson scored 30 points with 16 rebounds and second-seeded Iowa narrowly avoided a monumental upset, holding off No. 15 Mercer 66-61 on Friday for its first NCAA Tournament win in four years.
No 15 seed has ever won an NCAA Tournament game going 0-101 now.
Makenzie Meyer added 16 for the Hawkeyes (27-6), who survived the opening round at home despite committing 24 turnovers.
Hannah Stewart hit three consecutive baskets after Iowa got down by two with 4:19 to go, putting the Hawkeyes ahead 64-61. Stewart missed a jumper with 21 seconds left, but the ball knocked off a Mercer player.
Iowa’s Tania Davis then missed two free throws, but the Hawkeyes were bailed out of the ensuing scrum by the possession arrow.
Kathleen Doyle finally sealed it for Iowa with two free throws with 8.9 second to go.
Iowa was extremely sloppy from the opening tip, letting Mercer hang around by turning it over 14 times. But Gustafson was a perfect 9 for 9 from the field, and Meyer drilled a momentum-boosting corner 3 at the buzzer for a 35-27 lead.
Mercer pulled to within 37-36 before Meyer hit another 3 that appeared to swing momentum back in Iowa’s favor. But the Hawkeyes couldn’t stop turning the ball over, and every shot Mercer missed seemed to bounce in the waiting arms of an open Bears player.
Mercer took its first lead, 51-50, when Shannon Titus hit a jumper to beat the third-quarter buzzer. KeKe Calloway’s 3 extended that lead to 56-52 with 6:58 left.
Gustafson’s three-point play put the Hawkeyes back on top 57-56, only to watch Calloway answer with a 3 to put Mercer on top 59-57.
This was the second time in three years that a No. 15 seed almost beat a 2 seed. Oregon State staved off Long Beach State 56-55 in 2017.
Calloway scored 21 points and Amanda Thompson had 18 for Mercer (25-8), which saw its win streak snapped at 17 games. Had a few things gone their way down the stretch, the Bears might have made 18 straight wins.
THE BIG PICTURE
Iowa: If the Hawkeyes are as careless with the ball on Sunday as they were on Friday, they’ll likely see their season come to an end.
Mercer: The Bears’ senior class won a school-best 104 games and led the program to back-to-back NCAA bids. That group, headlined by Thompson and Calloway, will be tough to replace.
Iowa will host either Drake or Missouri on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 at stake.
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