‘We never want to feel the way we did last year ever again’: Iowa women’s basketball using last season’s early exit to fuel the fire

The Hawkeyes were upset in the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament and returning players are using that defeat as motivation this summer.


Grace Smith

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark shoots a 3-pointer during a First Round NCAA women’s basketball tournament game against No. 2 Iowa and No. 15 Illinois State in sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, March 18, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Redbirds, 98-58.

Chris Werner, Assistant Sports Editor

The Iowa women’s basketball team doesn’t have to look far for a source of motivation this summer. 

The feeling the Hawkeyes had exiting the Carver-Hawkeye Arena floor after a second-round NCAA tournament loss four months ago is fueling the fire. 

The second-seeded Hawkeyes fell to the 10th-seeded Creighton Bluejays, 64-62, in front of a home crowd to end a season that included both Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. The Hawkeyes climbed to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 the week before their season concluded. 

With all five starters returning from the 2021-22 team, senior guard Kate Martin said Iowa hasn’t forgotten the disappointment it felt after failing to reach the Sweet 16 last year.

“We use the end [of last season] as motivation for sure,” Martin told reporters at a July 29 media availability session. “We’ve brought up that last loss quite a few times this summer and I think that’s what you should do, use it as motivation. 

“We never want to feel the way we did last year ever again,” Martin continued. “We’re going to do everything in our power to never feel like that.”

Junior guard and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Caitlin Clark said while last season’s NCAA Tournament loss doesn’t “keep her up at night,” she doesn’t want to experience a letdown like that again. 

“Obviously [the loss] makes you want to work harder,” Clark said. “I think that’s the beauty of March Madness. It’s the greatest postseason tournament in sports in my opinion. You’re season can end in the blink of an eye and that’s why it’s so great, that’s why people love it, because there are those upsets, but when you’re on the wrong end of one, you don’t like it as much.”

RELATED: The Daily Iowan unanimously names Caitlin Clark 2021-22 Female Athlete of the Year

After Iowa was the second-highest scoring team in the nation a season ago, senior guard Gabbie Marshall said the Hawkeyes are focused on improving other aspects of the game this summer.

“I think just continuing to bring up our defensive energy and rebounding — we need to get better at that, that’s a big thing,” Marshall said. “I think just staying together and having full focus is how we’re going to pull out big games.”

The Hawkeyes have certainly stayed together. 2022-23 will mark the third straight year head coach Lisa Bluder has had the same starting five of Clark, Marshall, Martin, Monika Czinano, and McKenna Warnock. 

Bluder said the experience of the roster gives her freedom to give younger players reps without worrying if her starters are getting enough practice. 

“You’re not having as much teaching, really [the early part of the season is about] kind of building the chemistry of those new people,” Bluder said. “What I can do now is give some of those older veterans some time off, let them really be fresh in March because they don’t have to have as many repetitions early, they already know the system.”

Iowa will begin its redemption tour with two home games against Southern University and Evansville on Nov. 7 and 10 before traveling to Drake on Nov. 13. 

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