The amount of balance the Iowa women’s basketball team’s starting lineup has produced now awaits an opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16.
That’s a place coach Lisa Bluder has never experienced.
Sixth-seeded Iowa will play No. 3 seed Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes encounter a tall task in the Cardinals, a program that reached the national championship game last season before losing 93-60 to Connecticut.
But Iowa is at home, and the Hawkeyes’ balance has carried them far. Bluder’s squad reached the Big Ten Tournament championship game, tied the second highest win total in team history, were 13-3 in Carver-Hawkeye in the regular season and have all five starters averaging double figures in scoring.
Perhaps an upset is on the horizon.
“I think it’s going to be a great game. … They have a lot of weapons,” Louisville forward Sara Hammond said. “I think our mentality is the same every game. We have to bring our ‘A’ game. Defensively, we have to rebound, limit our turnovers, get our offense going and do what we did (Sunday) night: make a lot of shots.”
Iowa works well in transition and accumulates several scoring runs during games to create separation.
In Sunday night’s 87-65 win over Marist, the Hawkeyes shot 57.1 percent, including 48 percent from 3-point range. They also outrebounded the Red Foxes 41-23. Those kinds of discrepancies will have to occur Tuesday for Iowa to win.
“Any time you can put five players in double figures, you’re doing something right. … It’s a ball club that presents a lot of problems for us,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “We’re going to have to defend extremely well, and we’re going to have to defend the 3-point line well. When you shoot close to 50 percent, we definitely don’t want to give them wide-open looks.”
Iowa junior Melissa Dixon thinks this year is different. This could be the season the Hawkeyes don’t get stymied in the first two rounds and advance as one of the final 16 schools. In her three years, Dixon and the Hawkeyes have gone 2-2 in the tournament.
Last year, Iowa also advanced to the second round but lost to No. 2 seed Notre Dame. In 2011-12, it lost to eighth-seeded California in the first round.
“This team is just so special,” Dixon said. “We’re so close and we play so well together. This year really is the year I feel like we can get it and move on to the Sweet 16.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball