Having watched every game Caitlin Clark has played for the Iowa Hawkeyes I can say one thing is certain. Clark hates to lose. When you are the best, you have an insatiable appetite for competition. You also go against Ted Lasso’s wise saying, “Be a goldfish.” Ted’s brilliant motto (even though it’s fiction) is based on the fact that someone should have a 10-second memory. Let past mistakes go and focus on the present. Yes. To an extent. The great ones have a loss or failure seared in their minds. Last year Kansas State (19-17) beat the Hawkeyes 84-83 in Manhattan, Kansas. Caitlin Clark will come out fired up. It is more than just Clark, however.
Kansas State did not have all-American Ayoka Lee last year due to a knee injury. Lee returns this year along with Gabby Gregory. Both players are on the Wooden Award Player of the Year watchlist. The #2 Hawkeyes host Kansas State on Thursday, November 16th at 7:30 pm. The game will be televised on FS1.
Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats are 2-0 scoring 73.0 points per game and allowing 37.0. Their opponents, Presbyterian and Little Rock, are not at Iowa’s level, but Kansas State showed last year they have a quality basketball team. The first name on the scouting report is 6’6” center Ayoka Lee.
She comes in averaging 23 points and 8.5 rebounds. The Hawkeyes will need to utilize ball pressure, quick feet, and defensive positioning to not allow the ball inside. Easier said than done. Lee is dominant in the paint, she is a good foul shooter, but she is not a threat beyond the arc. Lee scored an NCAA Division I women’s record in 2022 when she scored 61 points against Oklahoma. The Hawks can’t afford for Lee to catch the ball down low.
This year Gabby Gregory is only averaging 4.5 ppg, but last year the 6’0” guard averaged 18.5 and 5.3. Rounding out Kansas State’s starting five are twins Jaelyn and Brylee Glenn and Serena Sundell. Sundell scored 24 points last year against the Hawks and pulled down six rebounds. Obviously, Lee was injured last year, but I’m wondering how this team lost 17 games in 2022-23. Kansas State brings Zyanna Walker off the bench; she is averaging 11.5/3.5. As a team, the Wildcats are shooting only 25% from three and a very good 74% from the free-throw line. The Wildcats want to attack the basket with post entries and dribble drives. The Hawkeyes will mix their defense up a little bit, but a major focus will be to keep their player in front of them. A drive and dish to Lee will be two points.
The Hawkeyes have struggled shooting the ball from distance in their three games. Iowa is shooting just 28% from beyond the arc. Iowa is always a very good free-throw shooting team - the Hawks are making 76% of their foul shots. In the first three games, Coach Lisa Bluder has been able to go to her bench quite a bit. Look for the rotation to be shortened against the Wildcats. The Hawkeyes will need excellent perimeter defense from Clark, Gabbie Marshall, and Kate Martin, while the posts must defend Ayoka Lee in the paint. Replacing Monika Czinano will be a challenge this season, but so far Sharon Goodman (9.7/3.7) and Addison O’Grady (8.0/3.0) are doing an admirable job. Hannah Stuelke also is playing some excellent basketball. Stuelke, a sophomore post, is averaging 16.7/6.7.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena will be sold out and rocking. The game will feature three Wooden Player of the Year candidates, but the team that plays better will get the win. As always, it’s great to be a Hawkeye! Go Hawks!