Iowa Women Focus On Sweet 16 Berth and Not On Last Home Game Together

With a berth in the Sweet 16 in Albany on the line Kate Martin says the Iowa Women’s Basketball Team is more focused on advancing than being sentimental over their last game at Carver Hawkeye Arena. But make no mistake Martin and her teammates are grateful for the Iowa experiences. “It’s definitely bittersweet. I feel really grateful to have extended my time into six years and I’ve gotten to play a lot of games out here on this court, and I feel really grateful for that.  So just staying in the moment. And we can deal with that after the game, but first we’re obviously focused on getting a victory  and just enjoying every single moment  with our teammates, trying to have fun out there and smile a lot and just play some basketball.” Martin continued “Yeah, I don’t think it will hit me until the season’s really over. But I feel lucky that we’ve gotten two extra home games on our home court here.”

After 130 starts along with Gabbie Marshall, Martin and  National Player of the Year and Three Time First Team All American Caitlin Clark  have much to be grateful for in their Hawkeye careers. Clark echoed Martin’s sentiments. “Yeah, what she said. I would echo all that. I think the biggest thing is just being grateful. How lucky are we that we get to play two March Madness games on our home court in front of our fans and never letting that opportunity pass us by?  Like Kate said, it’s all business. We’re going to be locked in. I don’t think any of us five seniors are going to be thinking, oh, my gosh, this is our last game. I think the environment is too competitive. You’re wanting to win so hard that’s not really what you’re focused on. Like she said, I feel that’s something that will hit you either after the game or once the season ends. I think more than anything, we need to use the crowd to our advantage. Having 15,000 people that want to cheer for you, that’s huge.

Tonight’s second round game against West Virginia will be a game of potent offense versus a staunch defense. West Virginia is rooted in defense, and not just the part in which you stop the other team from scoring.  “We’ve been aggressive by nature, and steals and turnovers have been our (modus operandi) for most of the year,” said Kellogg, in his first year as the Mountaineers’ coach.  West Virginia (25-7) leads the nation in turnover margin (plus-8.8) and is third in turnovers forced at almost 24 a game and steals 14.

Iowa leads the nation in scoring offense, at 92.8 points per game. West Virginia allows 57.6 points per game.  Something will have to give and Iowa’s Sydney Affolter says the Hawkeyes welcome the challenge.

“They’re a really aggressive team,” she said. “I love when teams try to press us. We’re going to break it, and they’re going to have to take it off.”  Tipoff is 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN. The second-ranked Hawkeyes (30-4) are 16 1/2-point favorites to reach the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.

No word yet on whether Molly Davis may be available for the Hawkeye’s but Hannah Stuelke appears to be ready to go as she proclaimed herself as “ready to go” after missing the second half of the Holy Cross game with a migraine. “I feel great,” she said. “I got home, got some food, got some rest. That did the trick for me.”

Monday’s winner advances to the Sweet 16 at Albany, N.Y., and will face No. 17 Colorado (24-9) on Saturday in a regional semifinal.