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Hawks face long odds

[ 0 ] March 25, 2013 |

Since the NCAA women’s basketball tournament expanded to 64 teams, the No. 8/9 seed is 3-72 against the No. 1 seed.

That’s the history facing ninth seed Iowa (21-12) today as it tries to take down top-seeded Notre Dame (32-1) in a second-round NCAA Tournament game at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena

“They are one of the best teams in the country, and honestly, probably no one thinks we can beat them,” Iowa senior Jaime Printy said. “So we have nothing to lose.”

The Irish have been the NCAA runner-up in each of the past two seasons, falling to Texas A&M in 2011 and Baylor last season.

The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, haven’t been past the second round since 1996 and are 0-3 in second-round games under coach Lisa Bluder (losing to Utah 78-69 in 2001, to UConn 86-46 in 2002, and to Stanford 96-67 in 2010).

“They have won 27 in a row, and that has got to get boring, doesn’t it, for them?” Bluder said. “So you know maybe they will take it for granted. Maybe they will be in a situation where, you know, they are highly favored — there’s nobody in America that’s betting on the Iowa Hawkeyes except for those women that are in that basketball locker room right now.”

Iowa has the advantage of getting to play the Irish in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Of course, Notre Dame is undefeated on the road this season.

“Well, I think we’ve been road-tested and we’re battle-tested,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We have gone to a lot of tough places on the road. So we know what that’s going to be like.”

Notre Dame has scouted Iowa and knows what to expect.

“I think everybody can shoot the ball,” Notre Dame senior Skylar Diggins said. “I know Jaime from USA Basketball, her national recognition.

“They have beaten their fair share of ranked opponents. Playing in this home atmosphere, I know they are going to be confident.”

Iowa has seven wins over Top 25 team this season, and the Hawkeyes are quietly confident.

“To be honest, I think we just have the ability to turn it on when we play good teams,” Johnson said. “We normally play at the level of competition, and if that happens that’s going to be awesome for us.

“I just think that we have this belief inside of us that we can do anything and that we can win this game.”

To win, Iowa is either going to have to score more points or hold down a Notre Dame team that averages more than 80 points per game.

“We’re just going to have to score,” Printy said. “However we score, we score. They are a great scoring team. We can’t win just playing defense. We have to put the ball in the hole.”

Iowa is 11-1 when scoring more than 70 points this season, and 5-0 when scoring more than 80 points.

“We have to score right with them,” Iowa sophomore Melissa Dixon said. “Then get back in transition and take away their paint points.”

Iowa is shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range (192-568) led by Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year, Dixon, who has 78 3-pointers and shoots them at a 43.0 percent clip.

“We’re definitely an underdog in this game,” Dixons aid. “But anything can happen on any given night.”

Tennessee-Martin had eight 3-pointers Sunday, including six by Heather Butler, to keep things interesting for a while during a 97-64 Irish win.

“You make some mistakes,” Diggins said. “(Butler) banked a couple in. She’s a good guard; she scores on everyone.

“I thought we could’ve done a better job of team defense on her.”

Iowa is 2-0 this season when it makes 10 or more 3-pointers.

“Well, I think that we are going to have to find a way to score with them,” Bluder siad. “They just are explosive offensively, and so we have got to knock down shots. We have got to hit those 3s tomorrow.”

The Irish are led by Diggins, who averages 16.8 points per game, but have four starters who average 12.3 points per game or better. And freshman Jewell Loyd had a career-high 27 points on Sunday.

But they don’t have the size inside to match up with 6-foot-6 senior center Johnson. Natalie Achonwa is a 6-3 forward and the Irish’s tallest player.

“I think it’s just going to be about being physical,” Achonwa said. “Iowa is physical, and we are going to play physical and it’s just about who out-thinks their opponent, basically.

“Both are very smart teams, and it’s just who is a step ahead.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball

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