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Hawkeye Women vs Kentucky for the Sweet 16

Can Coach Lisa Bluder’s team get a signature win? I think so.

Caitlin Clark produces in first NCAA tourney game

The 5th seeded Iowa women are set to take on the 4th seeded Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday at 2:30pm. The Hawkeyes took care of business against Central Michigan, and Kentucky eventually beat Idaho State by 8 points. The mantra in the tournament is to advance. That’s all that matters. What you did in the last game means nothing. If you don’t defend, you go home. If you don’t hit shots (unless you’re really defending), you go home. It’s what makes March Madness the best sporting event on the planet.

Kentucky Wildcats (Three observations)

A few things that jump off the page at me when I look at the Wildcat roster and watch them on video. They have size. Iowa doesn’t have a small lineup, but Kentucky comes at you with size and length. That will be a factor in the game. The Wildcats were plus 11 in rebounding differential in their first round game, primarily because they collected 16 offensive rebounds against Idaho State. You can’t give that many second chances to teams this time of year. Those second chance three point shots always, always, always go in.

The next thing that stood out to me watching their first round game was that Kentucky was loose with the ball. They committed 19 turnovers with sloppy, lazy passes. I would attribute some of that to looking past Idaho State. If the Wildcats are that loose with the ball against the Hawks, Iowa will translate that into easy buckets.

Finally, in watching the Wildcats’ half-court defense I feel that Kentucky doesn’t do a very good job of keeping vision on their person and the ball. Idaho State was able to backdoor cut or flash and get easy layups. If a defender looks only at the ball, backcut. If a defender loses sight of the ball, an offensive player can take him/her away from the action and this will eliminate a help side defender. You sometimes will see a driver go right past a defender who has her back turned to the ball. Easy layup. The Hawkeyes can take advantage of this and get an easy basket or two. Two points here or there is often the difference this time of year.

Hawks Must Contain Rhyne Howard and Chastity Patterson

I will start with #10 Rhyne Howard. She is a 6’2” do-everything player. She is a two-time SEC Player of the Year and a 1st team All-American. On the season she is averaging 20.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and over 3.5 assists per game. What most impresses me about her is her motor. She hustles. She plays hard. She’s relentless. She’s the women’s game equivalent to Luka Garza. She just comes at you. In the first round game she quietly scored 14 points, grabbed 9 boards, dished 5 assists, and collected 4 steals. Here is one of those assists. That’s nice basketball.

That’s some sweet production. She seemed to tweak her ankle a little in the second half of the Idaho State game. That may be something that slows her a little, but I wouldn’t count on it. She gets after it. Here is Howard going north and south. It probably should have been called a charge, but she’s aggressive.

The second player that worries me is #15 Chastity Patterson. She’s a 5’5” senior guard who reminds me of Iowa’s first round opponent, Central Michigan’s 5’6” guard Micaela Kelly. Both are quick, intelligent, can get to the rim, and shoot the three. That’s a tough combination to defend. Kelly still got her points Sunday against the Hawks; early foul trouble was a factor in the Hawkeyes’ favor on that one. Here’s a clip of Patterson showing off some of her mid-range game.

She also is accurate from downtown.

As Hayden Fry Would Say, “Dance with who brung ya!”

For the Hawkeyes to advance, they must defend. We saw the men’s outcome. You don’t win this time of year hoping to outscore your opponent. Not now. Not ever. Tomi Taiwo provided some nice defense off the bench against Central Michigan. Look for that again. The Hawkeyes have their work cut out for them with Howard. She is the best single player the Hawks have faced this year. Maryland’s team offense is incredible, but Kentucky’s Howard has all of the accolades and talent to back it up. Keeping Patterson out of the lane and a hand in her face is also necessary. She can hit shots from deep and if she gets by her defender she can dish off for an easy basket. Finally, sticking with defense, Iowa needs to complete possessions by boxing out and securing rebounds. Kentucky scores buckets of buckets off of offensive rebounds.

Offensively, the Hawks have played great ball this year. Keep doing what has worked. That is Monika Czinano in the post, screen and rolls, Caitlin Clark doing pretty much what she wants, and inside/out and transition threes for McKenna Warnock and Kate Martin.

Basically everyone that is vying for a Sweet 16 bid is a good basketball team. Consistently doing the little things is what usually tips the scales in your favor. Take care of the ball, play hard, defend, and have fun, Hawkeyes! We are enjoying watching this young team grew up right before our eyes. Go Hawks!