Iowa women’s basketball looking for spot in Sweet 16

The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes play No. 4 seed Kentucky Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. for a spot in the Sweet 16.


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 – The Iowa women’s basketball program is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

Iowa made it to the Sweet 16 in 2018-19, with former Hawkeyes Megan Gustafson and Kathleen Doyle leading the charge. The 2018-2019 Hawkeye squad advanced to the Elite Eight before being ousted by top-seeded Baylor.

The 2018-19 Hawkeyes had plenty of veteran leadership to rely on when they made their run in the NCAA Tournament.

The same can’t be said for the 2020-21 Hawkeyes, as most of Iowa’s players experienced what it’s like to compete in an NCAA Tournament for the first time in Iowa’s 87-72 win over Central Michigan Sunday.

“I think we have a great opportunity, more than anything,” freshman point guard Caitlin Clark said. “We have nothing to lose. We’re going into this game, we’re obviously young, but that doesn’t mean anything to us. We play together, and if we just play our game, I think we’re going to be perfectly fine.”

Fifth-seeded Iowa will play No. 4 seed Kentucky Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena on the University of St. Mary’s San Antonio campus with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

“I think, especially as a young team, it’s really trying to control our emotions and stay together as a team,” sophomore forward McKenna Warnock said. “I think we’re going into this game strong and really mentally prepared, so that’s a good aspect.”

Warnock’s defensive rebounding is pivotal for the Hawkeyes, who have been plagued by poor defensive efforts throughout 2020-21. The 6-foot-1 forward has registered seven double-doubles on the season and is currently riding a three-game double-double streak that dates back to the Big Ten Tournament.

“We need her to do a job on the boards,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We need her and [sophomore guard Kate Martin] on the glass. It’s been up and down for us this year, but when she’s getting those double-doubles, that means she’s really helping us on the glass as well as offensively, which I have so much faith in her offensively.”

Warnock is the third-leading scorer for the Hawkeyes this season averaging 11.3 points per game. She trails only Clark’s 26.5 points per game and junior center Monika Czinano’s 19.6 points per contest averages.

The Marshall, Wisconsin, native isn’t looking to hit the double-double mark in every game she plays, but she knows it’s her role to clean the glass.

“I just think my mentality going into the game is anything I can do to help out the team,” Warnock said. “A lot of the time it is just boxing out those bigger players and getting some of those rebounds. I found my way [Sunday], so that was nice.”

After a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Tournament, a 15-8 regular season, and a first-round win in the NCAA Tournament, Bluder’s young bunch wants to prove that it can win on a national stage.

“At the beginning of the year everyone was saying, ‘Oh, if we could just make the NCAA Tournament,’” Bluder said. “Now you get here and you’re like, ‘Ah, you just want to win that first game.’ Now you’re like, ‘The Sweet 16 sounds so good.’ You just keep wanting more. I think that’s human nature, but that’s also competitiveness. I think I have a team right now that believes they belong in the Sweet 16.”

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