SOUTH BEND, Ind. In this first-round match-up, Iowa played the part of the nail, California the hammer.
The physical Bears pounded the Hawkeyes into the hardwood Sunday 84-74 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game at the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
“It was pretty physical out there and the refs were letting a lot of things go,” sophomore Theairra Taylor said. “It’s frustrating, but we all wish we could’ve pushed back a little harder.”
Eighth seed California (25-9) advances to face top seed Notre Dame (31-3), which beat Liberty 74-43 in the second game of the regional.
Perhaps the Irish can contain the Golden Bears on the boards. Cal beat Iowa on the glass 41 to 29, including 19 offensive rebounds.
“California could write a textbook on how to rebound,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “They’re exceptional at just maintaining that persistence for the basketball.”
Iowa (19-12) knew coming in that Cal was ranked third in the country in rebounding margin (plus-13.2), but the Bears were even better in person than they looked on film.
“That really is hard to emulate in practice, the tenaciousness they have,” Bluder said. “Their ability just to get their hands on the basketball and keep going, keep pursing, keep jumping, and be able to come up with that ball.
“That’s pretty tough.”
The rebounds helped the Bears win second-chance points 20-7 and score 65 of their points either in the paint (44) or at the free throw line (21) after contact down low.
“They knew how to push you,” Iowa junior center Morgan Johnson said. “I think they were a little bit quicker and more athletic. They could jump higher, and they had multiple posts, so they kept trading in who was coming after me.”
Early on it seemed like the quickness and shot-making ability of the Hawkeyes might be able to counter the physical and athletic Bears. Iowa led 19-16 early in the first half.
But Cal went on a 14-2 run, finished off with a 3-point play by freshman Brittany Boyd to make it 32-21.
“I was really nervous,” Boyd said. “And you could tell at the beginning.
“I was just focused in on defense. The quickness really helped.”
Iowa responded with a 6-0 run that included a 3-pointer by senior Kelly Krei, but Layshia Clarendon made two baskets in the final 51 seconds and Cal went into the half up 42-33.
Sophomore post Gennifer Brandon made three shots in a row at the start of the second half for Cal to widen the lead to 48-35. Iowa didn’t threaten again until the final minutes.
California used a bank shot 3-pointer by Boyd down the stretch and hit 10-of-13 at the foul line in the final five minutes. The Bears came into the game shooting 61 percent at the line.
“You’re hoping statistics stay with you in that area,” Bluder said. “Some of those things, it just wasn’t meant to be for some reason.”
Iowa made one final surge. Kamille Wahlin hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 78-71 with 1:34 left. Boyd missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Caldwell got the rebound. Clarendon was fouled and hit two at the line.
“We had to get a few more defensive rebounds; maybe hit a few more shots,” Krei said. “It didn’t happen for us tonight.”
Iowa had five players in double figures, led by Wahlin with 15 points. Krei, Johnson and Taylor each had 14 points, and Logic finished with a double-double of 11 points, 11 assists.
California also had five in double figures, led by Clarendon with 16 points. Boyd had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and six steals.
Reshanda Gray added 14, and Brandon and Caldwell each had 11.
“We displayed what we feel like this Cal basketball team is all about, which is depth, versatility, heart and passion,” California coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “It might have been our most complete game from start to finish.”
The Bears took advantage of 13 steals and scored 27 points off Iowa turnovers.
“I think they got every 50/50 ball,” Krei said. “I think it was just a matter of they were jumping, not necessarily over us, but up higher than us.
“That’s just one of those situations you can say the ball didn’t bounce our way. I’m just proud of the way the team fought the whole game.”
It was the final game for seniors Krei, Wahlin and Kalli Hansen. Iowa returns three starters — Logic, Melissa Dixon and Johnson — next season.
Bluder also hopes to have junior Jaime Printy, who tore her ACL on Feb. 2, back this fall.
“Kamille and Kelly have been exceptional for us as leaders this year,” Bluder said. “I’m just really, really proud of the effort both of those young ladies have given us.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball