116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
No matter what happens Tuesday, the young Iowa Hawkeyes have surpassed expectations this season.
'At the beginning of the year, people said, ‘Oh, if they can only get to the NCAA tournament,'' Coach Lisa Bluder said. 'Then it was, ‘Oh, if they can only win one game.''
'Now, it's ‘Oh, the Sweet 16 sounds pretty good.''
It will be a challenge, sure. But not an impossible task.
The surging Hawkeyes (19-9) face 18th-ranked Kentucky (18-8) on Tuesday in a second-round encounter of the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
Tipoff is 2:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena, on the campus of St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
'The Sweet 16 is something you dream of as a basketball player,' freshman Caitlin Clark said. 'It's a great opportunity. We have nothing to lose.'
Iowa has won seven of its last nine games. That includes a run to the Big Ten tournament title game, and it includes an 87-72 NCAA first-round win over Central Michigan on Sunday.
One key to the late run is that the Hawkeyes have been able to get an unexpected bonus contribution almost every game, from a mystery player.
'When we have that extra dimension, we're really clicking on all cylinders,' Bluder said. 'Who knows who it will be?'
Sunday, it was Kate Martin, who scored 13 first-quarter points.
'I think it was just letting the game come to me, which I like to do,' Martin said. 'My teammates found me open, and I'm excited I was able to knock them down.'
Gabbie Marshall had a career game in the Big Ten tournament. And now McKenna Warnock is becoming a steady contributor again, posting three straight double-doubles.
'My mentality is to do whatever it takes to do to help us win,' Warnock said. 'I had a nice little break (due to foul trouble) in the first half (against Central Michigan). I was able to come out and contribute.'
Of course, most of the attack runs through Clark (26.7 points, 7.1 assists per game) and Monika Czinano (19.5 ppg).
Iowa is averaging 86.6 points per game, which ranks second in the nation and well ahead of school-record pace.
Bluder was asked Monday if she felt her team can score on anybody.
'I do, but I hate saying that,' she said. 'I don't want to say that and jinx us, but I'm very optimistic about our offense.'
The Hawkeyes will have their plate full in trying to slow Kentucky's Rhyne Howard, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, a first-team Associated Press All-American and the Southeastern Conference player of the year.
'Obviously, she's a really good player,' Martin said. 'She can score from all three levels. She can drive and score, pull up, hit the 3-point shot. We have a game plan, we'll stick to that, and hopefully we'll come out victorious.'
'It's going to take more than one person to defend her,' Bluder said. 'We have to mix it up.'
Howard averages 20.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
The teams have one common opponent: Kentucky defeated Indiana, 72-68, and the Hawkeyes lost to the Hoosiers twice.
Tuesday's victor advances to face No. 1 Connecticut or Syracuse in the regional-semifinal round Saturday or Sunday.
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