March 21, 2010
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STANFORD, CA – The Iowa women’s basketball team added another chapter to its magical season Saturday night with a first round win in the NCAA Tournament over C. Vivian Stringer and Rutgers. A win over No. 1 seed and second-ranked Stanford Monday night in the second round would turn this season’s novel into a New York Times bestseller.
The Hawkeyes are the obvious underdogs in Monday’s matchup. Stanford is 32-1 on the year, with its only loss coming at No. 1 ranked and national champion favorite Connecticut by only 12 points. When you throw in the fact Stanford is also playing on its home court, all the cards are stacked in favor of the Cardinal.
“It’s no mistake that we are the underdog,” sophomore Kelly Krei said in Sunday’s news conference. “We are going to go out and give it everything we have and hope to finish on top.”
Stanford is led by Pac-10 Player of the Year Nnemkadi Ogwumike and 2009 all-American Jayne Appel. Ogwumike leads the team with 18.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, while the 6-4 Appel is scoring 13.6 and nine rebounds. Another strong presence inside 6-4 Kayla Pedersen, who is scoring 16.1 points and grabbing 9.2 boards per contest.
Iowa will be undersized in Monday’s matchup, but that hasn’t been a problem for the Hawkeyes this season. Even though Stanford holds a plus-12 rebounding margin, the Hawkeyes are ready to battle on the boards.
“We’ve kind of been undersized all year,” junior Kachine Alexander said. “Michigan State is a big team, but we out-rebounded them. It all comes back to technique and whoever has the best technique is going to win on the boards.”
Head Coach Lisa Bluder and her staff enter Monday’s game with a little extra knowledge on Stanford, even though the Hawkeyes haven’t played the Cardinal this season. Bluder ran the same offense as Stanford, the triangle, for nine seasons (two at Drake, seven at Iowa).
“I do think that having knowledge of the triangle offense is to our benefit,” Bluder said. “They have great personnel to run that offense. You need post players who have strong hands and great vision. If they are able to run their offense cleanly and crisply, they are going to be tough.”
While knocking off a No. 1 seed seems like a tall task, Alexander and her teammates are entering the game with nothing to lose.
“Whoever’s the best team on that night, not who’s the best team overall,” Alexander said. “That’s the greatness of the NCAA Tournament.”
“We have nothing to lose here,” Bluder said. “We have nothing to fear. Let’s just go in here, play our guts out and see what happens.”
As far as the season novel is concerned, Bluder is hoping to change the title come Monday night.
“We’ve had a Cinderella season and everyone knows that,” Bluder said. “But if we win tomorrow, it will be a classic.”