Iowa City, Ia. — For the Iowa women’s basketball team, it was two steps forward in the NCAA Tournament, and one big step back into the Pacific Northwest.
“That’s how the NCAA Tournament is set up,” junior Kamille Wahlin said. “You never know where you are going to be placed.”
After three consecutive years of playing in the 8- vs. 9-seed game, Iowa earned a sixth seed Monday after compiling a 22-8 record.
But the Hawkeyes weren’t done any favors, with a first-round matchup against No. 20 Gonzaga (28-4) on the Bulldogs’ home court at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The game is at 3 p.m. Saturday in Spokane, Wash.
“We’re the underdog going in there, even though we have the higher seed,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “It’s just one of those things. We don’t have any control over it; you just have to do the best you can.”
The Bulldogs, an 11 seed, have won 18 consecutive games, went undefeated in the West Coast Conference, and have just lost once on their home court (a six-point setback against No. 2 Stanford).
“It’s a tough matchup, especially on their home court,” Bluder said. “We’re the only sixth seed that has to play someone on their home court. It’s unfortunate.”
The Bulldogs are the highest-scoring team in the country (86.1 points per game). Gonzaga is led by senior guard Courtney VanderSloot (18.6 ppg), 6-foot-1 senior forward Katelan Redmon (17.3) and 6-2 junior forward Kayla Standish (16.6).
VanderSloot leads the country in assists, averaging 10.2 per game. She is the three-time WCC player of the year.
“I think we’ll be ready for them,” said Iowa sophomore Jaime Printy, whose 16.5 points per game leads the Hawkeyes. “We like to get out and run, too, so it’ll be fun.”
Gonzaga made it to the Sweet 16 last season, a destination Iowa hasn’t been to under Bluder and has not visited since 1996.
“We’ll take this challenge on,” senior Kachine Alexander said. “This whole year we’ve been taking on challenges.”
The other side of the region features No. 7 UCLA (27-4) as the third seed, facing 14th seed Montana (18-14).
When ESPN’s Doris Burke talked about the four-team region, she pointed out UCLA will need to be on upset alert against Gonzaga in the second round … with no mention of the Hawkeyes.
“Uh-hmm,” Alexander said. “We’re used to it. It’s fine. Whatever. Gonzaga is a great team.”
“We always notice those things,” Wahlin said. “People seem to count Iowa out pretty quickly. It’s just one of those things that hopefully we can go in there and prove somebody wrong.”
Iowa’s NCAA trip is the eighth under Bluder and its fourth straight. Iowa ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, then lost to Ohio State 71-61 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Buckeyes won the tournament and earned a fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament. The other Big Ten teams in the tournament are Michigan State (4), Penn State (6) and Purdue (9).
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball