After last year’s NCAA home loss to Creighton, the Iowa Hawkeyes carried an extra burden into yesterday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Unfortunately in today’s world, teams, players, and coaches are only remembered for what they do in March. One needs to look no further than Spencer Lee, the Purdue men’s team, and the Stanford women’s team. Also, Fran McCaffery is a very good basketball coach, but his “fault” (other than not emphasizing defense enough) is his lack of a Sweet 16 banner. Spectacular seasons and careers come crashing to the ground this time of year.
The Hawk women tossed that monkey off their backs in beating a very good Georgia squad 74-66. I feel that the Hawkeyes can now play a little more loose than they did against the Bulldogs. You could see a little bit of nervousness from our players, and you know that last year was on their minds. Monika Czinano missed a number of shots she normally makes, Caitlin Clark threw a pass right to a Bulldog at a key moment late, and other Hawks were passing up wide-open shots. Not that there is anyway, but there is no shame losing a game to make it to the Elite 8. Everything after this point is gravy, if you will. That’s a pretty gross saying when you think about it, and turkey gravy is phenomenal. Let’s carve up (get it?) that game.
First of all, that Georgia team was a pretty nice squad. They finished 22-12. At first glance one would wonder how they would have lost 12 games. Five of those losses were to South Carolina (2), LSU (2), and our Hawkeyes (1). Former Hawkeye and current Georgia head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson is a very good basketball coach. She made sure to never be hired by Iowa post-Bluder when two of her players went all “hurt-people” the last few seconds of the game. Also, her post-game comment about Diamond Battles (she’s excellent) being the best player on the floor...
The Bulldogs have excellent length and athleticism. Length, even more than height in my opinion, is one of the best attributes in a basketball player. Iowa struggled at times passing the ball against Georgia’s zone. It’s very hard to emulate length in practice. There were a handful of Hawk turnovers where it appeared we were throwing the ball to them. Maybe some nerves, but much of that comes down to going against a quicker/lengthier/taller player than you are used to competing against.
Caitlin (NPOY) Clark played all 40 minutes. With Hannah Stuelke out and Molly Davis getting banged up, Lisa Bluder went with a tighter rotation. Clark did not disappoint. On an “off” shooting night, she still shot 40% from 3 (4-10), scored 22 points, dished out 12 assists, and had three steals.
Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock ended their Carver careers with a win and excellent games. Czinano had 20 points and nine rebounds. The Clark to Czinano connection is worth the price of admission. Clark set the single-season B1G record for assists in a season (291). Not bad for a selfish player who doesn’t pass the ball. Sigh.
Warnock ended up with 14 points and eight rebounds. McKenna came up with a winning rebound late. These two will be greatly missed next season.
It was a very evenly matched game. Both teams shot about the same percentage from the field and free throw line with the Hawkeyes having the advantage from deep (Iowa 12-28 42.9% / GA 6-16 37.5%). This was a beautiful pull-up shot by Clark that was as big as they come.
The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle by a wide margin (42-29); that’s what allowed them to stick around. It’s not going out on a limb to say that if the Hawkeyes are minus 13 in rebounding margin going forward, they are coming home before cutting down any nets. This will be a major emphasis over the next few days. Without a doubt the Hawks missed Hannah Stuelke. Hopefully her injury heals as her athleticism, size, and determination are needed if the Hawks are to make a run.
The Hawkeyes travel out west to Seattle. Iowa will face the winner of tonight’s Duke/Colorado game. Duke (26-6) is the 3 seed and Colorado (24-8) is the 6. From a seeding standpoint we are all Colorado fans. It is a home game for the Dukies. The game is at 8pm and can be seen on ESPNU. Every team at this point is talented. It feels great to be sitting at home, resting, recuperating, and watching our next opponent. As always, especially now, it’s great to be a Hawkeye! This women’s team has provided me with so much joy this year. We aren’t ready for this season to be over, Hawks. Go get it!