Iowa women’s basketball heads to Big Ten Tournament

The Hawkeyes begin their quest for a conference tournament crown Wednesday evening.


Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) goes for the basket during the Iowa women’s basketball game v. Nebraska in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on March 6, 2021. Iowa defeated Nebraska with a score of 83-75 .

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

After a solid regular season that saw the Hawkeyes finish 15-8 overall and 11-8 in Big Ten play, Iowa is now set to begin postseason play at the Big Ten Tournament this week at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Hawkeyes’ regular season records afforded them an opening-round bye, so sixth-seeded Iowa will open its postseason with a matchup against 11th-seeded Purdue.

While the Hawkeyes do have a full regular season under their belts, they still lack the experience that other league teams have. On a 15-player roster, only five Hawkeyes are upperclassmen.

One of those upperclassmen is Alexis Sevillian, and she’s been stressing that the postseason is a fresh start for every team to her younger teammates.

“The past records don’t matter because now people are fighting for seeding and standing in the NCAA Tournament, so it’s like a fresh start,” Sevillian said. “When you look over a team, it doesn’t end well, so just going into each game continuing to work on and challenging ourselves  with the things we’ve been focusing on throughout the season.”

Iowa and Purdue battled to the end in their first and only meeting of the season. After a back-and-forth match, Iowa pulled ahead in the fourth quarter with some clutch free-throw shooting.

“As a team we just turned it around defensively and that helped us secure a win,” sophomore forward McKenna Warnock said. “We’re going into this game knowing that the defense needs to be how it was in the last five minutes of that previous game.”

RELATED: Caitlin Clark leads Iowa women’s basketball to important win over Nebraska

Clark led the Hawkeyes in scoring the last time they met with the Boilermakers, dropping 26 points in 29 minutes of action. Sophomore McKenna Warnock, however, proved to be the difference-maker in that game, shooting 100 percent from the floor to score 19 points.

If Iowa were to defeat Purdue Wednesday, it would move on to the tournament’s quarterfinals to face Rutgers — a team that has greatly improved since the Hawkeyes defeated them in January.

“That’s a team that’s very different and they’re on an extreme roll right now winning nine in a row,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “In these couple of days leading up to the tournament, you do have to work on skills that are going to help you play multiple games because you don’t have a practice in between games.”

Iowa junior Logan Cook will be unavailable for the tournament unless the Hawkeyes make it to the Big Ten Tournament final on Saturday. Although she has passed Iowa’s COVID-19 protocols and will travel with the team to Indianapolis, she must complete the 17-day rest period the Big Ten mandates all its athletes take following a COVID-19 infection.

In a season where many teams didn’t get a chance to play full schedules, Bluder is grateful for her squad’s commitment to safety and the hard work of the medical staff.

“I’m just really proud of our women for the way they’ve handled this situation,” Bluder said. “Our athletic trainer has worked double time this year. She has worked so hard this year, and so there are so many unsung heroes as to why our team has been able to play so many games.”

Tipoff between Iowa and Purdue is scheduled for approximately 8 p.m. Wednesday. The game will air on FOX SPORTS 2.