The second-seeded Iowa women’s basketball team earned itself a couple of home games for their play this season, and will face 15 seed Mercer on Friday afternoon in their quest for postseason dominance.
Don’t let the 15 seed fool you: Mercer brings 17-consecutive wins and a spotless Southern conference record to Carver-Hawkeye Arena after tearing through its conference tournament, toppling Furman 66-63 to win its second consecutive Southern title. The Bears own a 25-7 record and haven’t lost a game since Jan. 6.
Mercer didn’t do so well against teams in major conferences this year, however. The Bears went 1-4 against such teams, the lone win coming over a Florida squad that ended the year at 8-23. So yeah, Iowa’s No. 8 strength of schedule (and six wins over ranked opponents) could come in handy here.
Really, the rest of this preview could start and end with Megan Gustafson, but that does little for you.
Mercer boasts both the media and coaches Southern Conference players of the year in seniors KeKe Calloway and Amanda Thompson. Calloway averages just under 18 points a game, and is coming off a 30-point effort in the team’s conference tourney win over Furman. Thompson is averaging a double-double a game, a paltry 13-10 compared to Gustafson’s average of 28-13.
Mercer starts four seniors, with sophomore Shannon Titus the lone underclassmen cracking the lineup. Calloway and Linnea Rosendal will be charged with guarding Tania Davis and Kathleen Doyle in Iowa’s backcourt, while who knows what they’re gonna do about Gustafson. It’ll probably be some combination of Thompson and Rachel Selph, Mercer’s 6-3 senior center. Good luck!
Mercer went to its first-ever NCAA Tournament a year ago, where the Bears lost 68-63 to Georgia in the first round. It sort of feels like Iowa may have gotten a tough draw of a 15 seed in Mercer, perhaps the hottest team in the country based of its recent record. But the difference between the Big Ten and the Southern Conference should shine in this matchup.
This is Susie Gardner’s seventh year at the helm of the Mercer program, but she still lacks the continuity of Lisa Bluder and her coaching staff. It’s a real bummer that this game will overlap slightly with the men’s first-round bout against Cincinnati, but a home crowd should make up for that. Iowa still has plenty of momentum on its own coming of a Big Ten Tournament win.
And yeah, one more thing. We still have Megan Gustafson.