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Ryan Connors |NCAA.com | March 22, 2019

Mercer took Iowa to the brink and nearly made NCAA women's basketball history

Iowa survives tough battle with Mercer, 66-61

Mercer came close to providing the first big upset of the 2019 NCAA women's basketball tournament, as the No. 15-seed Bears fell to No. 2-seed Iowa 66-61. A No. 15 seed has never upset a No. 2 seed in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

Mercer had a 51-50 lead heading into the final quarter, but Iowa was able to come back and notch the win thanks to a star turn from Megan Gustafson and a solid defensive performance.

Keke Calloway and Amanda Thompson combined for 39 points to give Iowa a huge scare, but the Hawkeyes' lockdown defense kept Mercer to 35 percent shooting from the field

THE BRACKET: Follow the NCAA women's basketball tournament here

Mercer hounded Iowa and forced a TON of turnovers

Mercer had an astounding 17 steals in the game. The Bears forced 24 Iowa turnovers and only had 3 giveaways of their own. It was a huge departure from the Bears' usual strategy, as they ranked 189th in the country in steals per game with 7.5 entering the tournament.

 

 

They punished Iowa's offense as much as possible and prevented the Hawkeyes from getting any easy looks for players not named Megan Gustafson.

But there was a slight problem with that strategy.

VIDEO: Previewing the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament

Megan Gustafson was otherworldly for the Hawkeyes.

Gustafson is one of the best players in the country, and is the centerpiece of Iowa's offense. She averaged 28 points 13 rebounds per game entering Friday, and exceeded both of those marks to keep the Hawkeyes afloat with 30 points and 16 boards on Friday. And she needed only 16 shots to get her 30 points.

Gustafson only missed two field goals and dominated around the rim. She was unstoppable, and had exactly half of Iowa's 28 field goal makes. Gustafson was the main reason why Iowa shot 55 percent from the field and was able to stay in the game despite the fact that Mercer had an astounding 80 field goal attempts to the Hawkeyes' 51.

MEET THE 1 SEEDS: Here are the top teams heading into the tournament

Iowa held on in the end, but it was close

Mercer had a four-point lead with seven minutes left in the game, but Iowa outscored the Bears 14-5 the rest of the way to secure the win. Gustafson (who else?) was huge down the stretch, scoring 11 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in the second half. Iowa will face the winner of Drake-Missouri on Sunday.

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