March 25, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Bracketologists won’t give the University of Iowa women’s basketball team a chance Tuesday when it takes on No. 2 Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
On the other hand, a majority of the 8,000 or so fans that come to Carver-Hawkeye Arena will give the underdog Hawkeyes more than a chance. They will give them a screaming chance.
“There is nobody in America that’s betting on the Iowa Hawkeyes except for those women that are in (our) basketball locker room right now,” University of Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said Monday at a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “But I told them, there are going to be a lot of people cheering for them and behind them to win this game, because I think everybody would like to see an upset like that.”
Notre Dame (32-1 overall) has won 27 consecutive games and is 19-0 away from the Purcell Pavillion at the Joyce Center. Included in that streak are two victories at Connecticut and one at Tennessee.
“Every streak has to end sometime,” Bluder said. “They have won 27 in a row and that has to get boring for them, doesn’t it? Maybe they will take it for granted.”
Notre Dame junior forward Natalie Achonwa (13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds per game) recognizes Iowa’s home court advantage.
“Everyone expects them to win and going into games like that is fun because you really have nothing to lose. If we get beat, we get beat, but we’re going to give it our all and it’s a great opportunity to play at home in front of our fans. Feeling that support helps your confidence so much and it means a ton to our team. We’ll have people all around the country cheering for the underdog in tournaments like this.”
UI senior guard
“We have played a lot of great away games this year and I think it’s about focusing on what we are going to do and how we are going to play, and just try to take the crowd out of it.”
The Irish average 81.3 points per game and they are coming off a first-round NCAA victory against Tennessee-Martin where they totaled 97 points. That is the top offensive output for Notre Dame since scoring 128 points on New Year’s Eve. Four Irish players average between 12.3 and 16.8 points per game.
“Their balance is something I really love because it’s something we try to stress in our basketball team,” Bluder said. “All good basketball teams have that inside-outside attack.”
“We’re going to have to score,” Printy said. “However we score, we score. We’re not going to win by just playing defense. We’re going to have to put the ball in the hole.”
If that happens — and if it happens consistently — then Hawkeye guard Samantha Logic, who netted 23 points with 11 rebounds Sunday in a win against Miami (Fla.), might get her wish.
“We need a little more `Madness’ in women’s basketball, too,” Logic said. “Why not start with us?”
Playing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena was a main theme at both the Notre Dame and Iowa news conferences. For the Irish, it is handling a hostile road environment. For the Hawkeyes, it is using the support to their advantage.
“Everyone expects them to win and going into games like that is fun because you really have nothing to lose,” Printy said. “If we get beat, we get beat, but we’re going to give it our all and it’s a great opportunity to play at home in front of our fans. Feeling that support helps your confidence so much and it means a ton to our team. We’ll have people all around the country cheering for the underdog in tournaments like this.”
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw isn’t thrilled about playing a home team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but she will do just that Tuesday.
“We have gone to a lot of tough places on the road so we know what that’s going to be like,” McGraw said. “The crowd is going to be against us and there are going to be a lot of people cheering against us. You would hope that we get some Notre Dame fans out there to balance that out, but we’re ready to go.”
The only other time Iowa and Notre Dame met in women’s basketball was in the 1996 Preseason WNIT, with the No. 20 Irish pulling off an upset against No. 6 Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 61-50.
Tuesday’s rematch is scheduled for an 8:40 p.m. (CT) tip. The game will be televised by ESPN2 with Holly Rowe and Brenda VanLengen calling the action.
Iowa is 7-3 this season against nationally ranked opponents, with three of those wins coming at home. Knocking off an eighth rated foe would merit even more fanfare.
“It would draw the nation’s eyes on us as a program and women’s basketball in general,” Johnson said. It’s a great opportunity for us to prove that women’s basketball has something to give to this nation.”