Sweet victory: Iowa women’s basketball takes down Georgia, advances to NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Iowa women’s basketball earned its ninth berth to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on Sunday, taking down Georgia at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa center Monika Czinano hugs teammate Caitlin Clark after winning the 2023 NCAA Second Round women’s basketball game over No.10 Georgia at a sold-out Carver Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, March 19, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Lady Bulldogs, 74-66. Cziznano scored 22 points in the victory.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

There was no home-court heartbreak for the Hawkeyes on Sunday afternoon.

After Iowa women’s basketball was ousted by 10th-seeded Creighton in the second round at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, the Hawkeyes “righted the wrong” in 2023, taking down 10th-seeded Georgia, 74-66, and punching their ticket to the Sweet 16 in Seattle.

But on Sunday, the loss to Creighton wasn’t on their mind.

“That was last year,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We used it for motivation that summer, but it’s not something we talked about this week. Now, maybe it’s in the back of everybody’s mind, but it’s not something we really brought up. It feels good to win this game, certainly. But it’s more that we beat a really good Georgia team and advanced to the Sweet 16. And we get to play another week.”

The Hawkeyes relied almost entirely on their five starters on Sunday, with junior guard Caitlin Clark playing the full 40 minutes.

Clark was a playmaker throughout the entire game, scoring 22 points and dishing out 12 assists — she was responsible for 31 of Iowa’s 33 second half points.

“I really did not want to let this team lose again in this round,” Clark said. “And I knew I needed to step up and make plays for this team. And I thought I was able to pick up their zone with my eyes and get the ball inside.”

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Every Hawkeye starter played over 37 minutes on Sunday, with only three players coming off the bench.

Iowa had no bench points, partly because of freshman Hannah Stuelke’s absence. Stuelke, who is usually the first off the bench for the Hawkeyes, didn’t play on Sunday because of an ankle injury sustained in Saturday’s practice.

“It literally happened in the last three minutes of practice yesterday; she just turned her ankle,” Bluder said. “They did some treatments on it last night and then this morning, and I really thought she was gonna be able to go today. But when she came into the locker room after the first warmup, I knew it was gonna be tougher.”

Bluder added Stuelke should be available for the Hawkeyes’ Sweet 16 game in Seattle on Friday.

Senior guard Molly Davis was also injured early in the first quarter, playing just two minutes in the game. Bluder said Davis should be fine as well, and that she hasn’t heard anything bad about Davis’ condition.

With Stuelke and Davis unavailable, the Hawkeyes’ main bench rotation shortened to just sophomores Sydney Affolter and Addy O’Grady, who played fewer than seven minutes combined.

While the Hawkeyes had a short bench, Bluder credited ABC’s commercial length for keeping her starters rested.

“The nice thing is ABC, you have a little bit longer timeouts,” Bluder said. “… It’s just unfortunate that Hannah went down. Obviously, when Molly went down right away, I mean, it’s just one of those things; but honestly, our players never hung their head, they never got upset.”

Now, Iowa has its ninth berth to the Sweet 16 — its fourth since 2015 — and will play the winner of No. 3 Duke and No. 6 Colorado in Seattle on Friday. Even though the Hawkeyes righted their wrong, they have higher aspirations this year.

“I think anytime you are one of 16 teams that get to play basketball, it’s pretty special,” Clark said. “But it wasn’t a huge part of our celebration in the locker room. This wasn’t our goal. It’s one of our steps to reaching our goal, but it’s not the end-all-be-all for us. This is the first weekend, and we won, and now we have a second weekend. And we hope there’s a third weekend, too.”