SOUTH BEND, Ind. First-year California coach Lindsay Gottlieb called Sunday’s first-round NCAA Tournament game “a contrast of styles.”
Eighth seed California (24-9) has a rugged, two post system that dominates in the paint and on the boards. Ninth seed Iowa (19-11) plays with four shooters outside the arc.
“They pose a lot of problems with their ability to score,” Gottlieb said. “They shoot a lot of threes.That’s different from how we play.
“That’s what great about the NCAA Tournament. That’s why it’s a really fun match-up.”
The Golden Bears like to pound it inside and play suffocating defense. They are 18-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 60 points.
And the rebounding … Iowa coach Lisa Bluder has heard all about the plus-13.2 rebounding margin (third-best in the country).
“I have these pills (the players) are going to take tonight that are going to make us grow another four inches and add another bounce in our step,” Bluder joked Saturday.
“There’s not a lot we can do about that; their athleticism.”
The Bears’ starting front line includes 6-3 junior Talia Caldwell (8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game) and 6-3 freshman Reshanda Gray (10.2, 5.9).
They also can bring 6-2 sophomore Gennifer Brandon (8.8, 9.9) or 6-2 freshman Justine Hartman (3.5, 1.7) off the bench.
“A really unique front line,” Gottlieb said. “It’s a luxury to have four front-line post players that are all athletic, all skilled.
“More than anything, they have a fearlessness. They value the basketball and go after it.”
Iowa started practice Saturday with rebounding drills, putting a hip on a defender and going after the ball.
“It’s going to be really vital to go after the board every time,” Iowa junior center Morgan Johnson said. “Attack the board, making sure we’re going after the ball, draw those types of over-the-back fouls.”
Iowa also will try to force those posts to defend away from the basket, particularly with 6-2 senior forward Kelly Krei.
“She can defend down there,” Bluder said of Krei. “We have a lot of confidence in her shooting the ball, and she can shoot the ball quickly.”
“They have some dominating presence inside,” Krei said. “I’ll just have to play bigger.”
Iowa also has the advantage of playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight season.
California, with zero seniors and a new coach, has no experience on the biggest stage.
“You really value it and appreciate hearing your name called, being able to write your name on the NCAA bracket, compared to the NIT bracket,” junior Layshia Clarendon said. “We know who we are, and we’re going for it.”
Iowa is 3-8 in the NCAA Tournament under Bluder.
“We definitely know what it means to be here, and that helps our confidence,” Johnson said. “Having that background to rely upon is really going to be a little bit of an advantage.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball