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Hawks hope to surprise Gonzaga as ‘underdog’ at tourney

[ 0 ] March 16, 2011 |

Senior Kachine Alexander said the quotes are up everywhere in the Hawkeye locker room: Comments from pundits who are giving Iowa zero chance to beat No. 20 Gonzaga on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s everywhere in our locker room, in the stalls; everywhere,” Alexander said. “Even on our water cooler out on the court.

“It’s one of those type of things. Wait, we’re the six seed, but we’re the underdog? I’m not sure how that works out, but you’ve got to take it and run with it and use it as motivation.”

Pretty much from the moment the pairings were announced Monday night, it’s been a forgone conclusion that 11th-seed Gonzaga (28-4) would take care of sixth-seed Iowa (22-8).

“Everybody in the whole country thinks we’re beat already; we might as well not even go out there,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “Every media person you talk to thinks we’re not — the team that’s going to win is going to be UCLA playing Gonzaga for the next game.

“So that kind of irritates you as a competitor that everybody’s already counted you out.”

The pundits have good reasons to like the Bulldogs. For one, Gonzaga gets to play on its home court at McCarthey Athletic Center, where they are 13-1 this season. The only loss was a six-point setback to No. 2 Stanford.

It was announced Wednesday that Gonzaga has sold out the 3:10 p.m. Saturday game, which will be the third sellout this season and fourth in school history.

“There’s a lot of momentum with this basketball team right now and their fan support,” Bluder said. “And it only seats 6,000, too. That’s the thing that concerns us a little bit.

“It’s going to be a very loud environment and very hard to communicate.”

Junior Kelly Krei said playing in front of a packed house can be more motivating than a poorly attended neutral site.

“It’s better than playing in an empty gym,” Krei said. “It’s a better basketball environment. It’s just unfortunate we have to go to their home floor.”

Gonzaga has won 18 straight games, crushing the West Coast Conference competition, winning by an average margin of 27 points per game in WCC play. Their losses were to Stanford (29-2), a one seed in the NCAA Tournament; Notre Dame (26-7), a two seed; Southern Cal (19-12), an NIT team; and Mississippi (10-19).

“We know Gonzaga is a very good team, and to us it’s a shock, and just like to them, that they’re even an 11 seed,” Bluder said.

Bluder said because all of the top seeds and most of the No. 2 seeds were hosting, it took away the 7, 8, 9 and 10 seed opportunities for the Bulldogs, who reached the Sweet 16 last year.

“It was talked about two weeks before the end of the year that they were going to be an 11,” Bluder said. “They knew it, because that was the only position they really could fit in.

“They’re as good as any six seed in the country.”

So with everything lining up for the Bulldogs, who are led by three-time WCC Player of the Year Courtney Vandersloot, the Hawkeyes have to remind themselves why they got a sixth seed.

“I’m not saying they are not a great team; they really are,” Alexander said. “At the same time, we’ve been through the Big Ten. There’s no better competition than that. I feel we can bring that to the game.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball

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