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NCAA Tournament First Round: Iowa cruises to biggest blowout of the day

After an uphill battle amid sky-high expectations and increased national visibility at a second straight Big Ten Tournament championship, the Iowa Hawkeyes now anticipate a run for the national title. For the second year in a row, they are hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They will play in front of a sold out crowd at Carver-Hockey Arena as the No. 2 seed in the Seattle 4 Region.

Their last go-around was a heartbreaking exit in the second round against Creighton in a down-to-the-wire game.

To erase that memory, the Hawkeyes have had to fight their way through the years to prove that they are a perennial powerhouse in college basketball. Highlight reels, chemistry and an overall healthy roster have worked in their favor and taken them to this point.

Superstar junior guard Kaitlin Clark, who is in the running for Naismith Player of the Year, spoke in Thursday’s pre-practice press conference about the familiarity of the team and her confidence in focusing on the task at hand and the importance of playing her game. I spoke to come on top.

“We just want to come out and play Iowa basketball and be what we’ve been doing all year,” she said. “I think the most important thing for us is that we don’t have to change anything now because we’re in the NCAA Tournament. We’re playing teams that maybe we’re not familiar with. I think it’ll be good for us to do what we do at night.

Senior guard Gabe Marshall talked about how this year’s team is different from last year’s in terms of their preparation for the tournament.

“Our mindset is that we cannot take any team lightly this year,” she said. “We have a chip on our shoulder because of how we finished last year and we don’t want to feel that again. I think we have emerged stronger this year, ready to compete and ready to work hard.”

Coach Lisa Bludger addressed the Hawkeye bench depth, which saw freshman forward Hannah Stuelke, freshman guard Molly Davis, and sophomore guard Sydney Afholter contribute greatly this year and how their presence in the tournament will be important with short periods of rest. between games.

“I think whenever you have that depth it sure helps you get through the Big Ten tournament when you play back-to-back,” she said. “The NCAA Tournament we usually have a day in the middle. The grind of a long season is real and you can see a lot of teams around the country are banging out, we’re not. I think that explains the depth of the season.” That’s what we’ve been able to use the last few months and years.”

Their first round opponent was No. 15 seed Southeastern Louisiana, coming off their best regular season in program history and developing a reputation for being competitive with their fearsome style of defense that allowed them to limit their opponents. has generated a respectable No. 28 ranking in the U.S. In points per 100 assets.

While their offensive play was not spectacular, their defense enabled them to remain resilient against top-ranked teams such as LSU and Alabama in the first year.

Simply put, the Hawkeyes had to concentrate and get over nothing.

They started the game by running, knowing that they would leave the much slower Lions behind with their lively onslaught. They also knew the Lions would put as much pressure on them as they could, especially Clarke. After a quick 10–4 lead, the Hawkeyes slowed down their offense when they went into transition so as not to risk turning the ball over.

That measured approach worked wonders, as Iowa was able to move the ball well and generate some points from the outside, in the paint, and at the free throw line.

With 4:28 remaining, the Hawkeyes led 15–8 and Clark scored 12 points.

When play resumed after the TV timeout, the Lions were hustling and clawing their way into the game. After every basket he made with some pull-up jumpers in the paint, he would have an answer for Iowa.

But they could not stop Monica Zinano in the paint, as she would score six points inside and cap a solid 8–4 run for Iowa, a run that was capped by a Molly Davis floating jumper at the 2:24 mark. Hawkeyes up by double digits at 23–12.

As the quarter came to an end, the Hawkeyes were ahead as most expected them to be. With a minute left, Kate Martin hit a wide-open three to make it 28–15, and after a Lions basket, the ball found its way into Clarke’s hands with the ticking clock. He had an open drive to the basket and would have been a buzzer-beater that went missing.

After one, Iowa led 28–17.

The second quarter is usually when the Hawkeyes are out on a run and it was none other than Clarke who was to be the catalyst.

Just 13 seconds into the quarter, he stole the ball at mid-court from guard Sierra Cunningham, made his way between two defenders, put it over the glass, drew the foul, and converted the extra point to make it 31–17. ,

But the tide started turning a bit. Even though the Hawkeyes were in control for the most part, the Lions were right there to respond. Within the first three minutes of the second, sophomore guard Taylor Bell and senior guard Chrissy Brown combined for 13 points; Bell with seven and Brown with six.

He did it with smart shooting within the perimeter, getting back in transition, crashing the boards, and applying just the right amount of pressure to force Iowa into turnovers.

With 7:12 remaining, Iowa’s lead was 35–23.

At 6:48, McKenna Warnock got on the board with a 3-pointer that made it 38–23.

Then there was a stretch of over three minutes where neither side was able to get a bucket despite some good looks. The spell was finally broken by a running floater by Jan Pierre that put the Hawkeyes ahead 38–27. However, that was followed by an epic 12–2 Iowa run that lasted less than a minute and a half. The Hawkeyes extended their lead to 22 and didn’t see it going into Locker as they led 54–32.

The early stages of the second half saw a dramatic turnaround from the Hawkeyes. Even though he had great strides in his 20s, he started to show some signs of fatigue. He was having some trouble moving the ball around, wasn’t making the shots he usually makes, and wasn’t attacking the glass.

Same was the case on the other side as well.

At the halfway point of the third quarter, each side had only four points as Iowa held on to a 58–36 lead. Clark got the intensity back with a 3-pointer at 5:27 that made it 61–36 and gave him 22 points.

Eventually, Iowa saw a 30-point lead and it was only a matter of who and when. At the 3:15 mark, it was Stuelke who drove his way across the lane for a hook to put them up 68–38.

At the end of the third quarter, three Hawkeyes (Clark, Zinano and Stuelke) had reached double digits. Iowa won the third 23–9 to give themselves a 75–41 lead. The Hawkeyes had one more quarter to increase their dominance.

At 8:28, Bell was called for his second intentional foul, which ended the game for him, and put Clark at the free throw line, where he converted both attempts to put the Hawkeyes up 83–41. . Shortly thereafter Iowa starters began making their way onto the bench for much needed rest.

When all was said and done, the Hawkeyes entered their own building and did what most expected. They won 95–43 in the first round.

Clark had another double-double of 26 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Czinano had 22 points and eight rebounds. Stuelke had 13 points and five rebounds. Warnock had six points and eight rebounds. Davis had six points and one assist.

Cunningham had 15 points, three rebounds and one assist. Bell had 9 points, one rebound and one assist. Brown had eight points, seven rebounds and one assist.

As a team, Iowa had 45 total rebounds compared to 31 for SE Louisiana. The Hawkeyes’ second round opponent, Georgia, scored 48 total points in a 66–54 win against Florida State, including 13 points from sophomore forward Javon Nicholson. Iowa coach Lisa Bludger talked about how important rebounding will be to their game plan.

“They have some of the best rebounders on the Georgia team,” she said. “We have to approach and box out because he is an exceptional offensive rebounder. So rebounds will definitely be a factor.”

Iowa (27-6) will play No. 10 seed Georgia (22-11) on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (ABC).

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