Lack of experience in NCAA Tournament no problem for Iowa women’s basketball

The Hawkeyes, with only one upperclassman in their starting lineup, took down Central Michigan, 87-72, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark goes for a layup during the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball championship against Central Michigan on Sunday, March 21, 2021 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX. The Hawkeyes defeated the Chippewas, 87-72. No. 5 Iowa will go on to play the winner of the 1 PM game between No. 4 Kentucky and No. 13 Idaho State on Tuesday during the second round.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

SAN ANTONIO – It was no experience, no problem for the Iowa women’s basketball team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Combined, the team had only around 14 minutes of playing time in the national tournament before Sunday, and junior center Monika Czinano was the only Hawkeye in the starting five who had experience in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the inexperience, fifth-seeded Iowa defeated No. 12 seed Central Michigan, 87-72, to advance to the round of 32 on Tuesday.

“We know we’re a young team,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “And we’ve been a young team all year long. So for us, truly we’re not worried about NCAA experience, because nobody had any NCAA experience last year… there was no nerves, it was truly excitement to be a part of this tournament, to be able to play today, and to be playing in March.”

After a slow start to the first quarter, Iowa took the lead with just under four minutes left in the first quarter. After that, the Hawkeyes never trailed again.

Four Hawkeyes ended the day in double figures. Both freshman Caitlin Clark and Czinano had 23 points in the game, and sophomore guard Kate Martin and forward McKenna Warnock tallied 13 points each.

Warnock also grabbed 10 rebounds for her third consecutive double-double.

“I always say, I think we do our best when we have multiple people in double figures,” freshman point guard Caitlin Clark said. “And that’s exactly what we had tonight. I think we can always clean up our defense, so that’s something we can work on and improve.”

At the end of the game, Clark threw a behind-the-back pass to Czinano, who converted for a layup and drew a foul to complete the 3-point play.

“My teammates always seem to be in the right spot at the right time,” Clark said. “And they know that they can get the ball whenever, maybe I won’t even be looking at them. I think our offense sets up a lot of situations off of ball screens, or just drives and pitches, that put me in good positions to get passes out to my teammates and they do a great job with finishing them.”

Although Iowa ranks second in the nation in scoring, the Hawkeyes rank 336th out of 336 teams in Division I Women’s Basketball in defensive scoring, allowing an average of 80.5 points per game. 

But the Hawkeyes switched up their defense against Central Michigan, and held the Chippewas to 72 points.

“Defensively, all year long it’s not been our strength,” Bluder said. “We’ve been known for our offense. Today we played a lot of player-to-player defense. In fact, the whole entire game, which is unusual for us, we typically mix things up. But I felt like with Central Michigan, and how well they shoot the ball, we had to get out and guard on the 3-pointer.”

With the win, the Hawkeyes advance to the round of 32 to take on No. 4 Kentucky on Tuesday. The game time and TV information have not been released yet.

“It’s just a dream come true to be out here and playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Clark said. “And it was really fun to get the win with my team.”

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