In the week following the Big Ten tournament, the Iowa women’s basketball team had plenty of practice time to focus on itself as it awaited word on its first opponent in the NCAA tournament.
It turns out that time focusing on themselves ended up being the perfect preparation for the Hawkeyes’ opening round foe.
No. 19 Iowa (26-8) will take on 11th seeded Marist (27-6) in its NCAA tournament opener at 7 p.m. today at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a team that Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said bears a strong resemblance to her own team.
“I think they are very similar to us,” Bluder said of Marist. “They average five in double figures, which is very unusual. They are good 3-point shooting basketball team, it looks like they are a good defensive team holding people to 60, and they are averaging 72 points per game.”
The statistical similarities between the opening round foes are staggering.
Both teams have five players averaging more than 10 points per game, and both have five players grabbing at least 3.8 rebounds per contest.
Marist led the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and ranks ninth in Division I in field goal percentage at 46.9 percent.
Iowa led the Big Ten in the same category and ranks 13th in the nation at 46.1 percent.
Marist is 11th of 343 Division I teams in assist to turnover ratio at 1.31 while Iowa is 16th (1.28).
In rebounding margin, Marist is 214th (-1.5) while Iowa is 225th (-1.8).
The Red Foxes have attempted 661 3-pointers, Iowa has tried 698.
Marist has attempted 714 free throws, making 534 while Iowa has gone a nearly identical 532-of-715 from the free throw line.
“They’re a better version of us,” Marist coach Brian Giorgis said of Iowa. “We know they’re talented and we know talent-wise they’re better, but better doesn’t always win. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
The teams share one common opponent this season in Ohio State, and of course the results against the Buckeyes were similar.
Iowa defeated Ohio State three times this season by an average of five points while Marist lost at Ohio State 62-59 on Nov. 23.
“They lost at Ohio State this year and only by three points,” Bluder said. “So they are very comparable to some of the teams that we have already faced this year.”
Neither team is a stranger to the NCAA tournament.
Iowa is making its seventh straight NCAA appearance and 11th in 14 seasons under Bluder while Marist is appearing in the tournament for the ninth straight year.
The Red Foxes have five all-time victories in the NCAA tournament and lost to Michigan State in the opening round last year.
“They are a good team, a good program,” junior Sam Logic said. “They’ve been in the tournament before so know what it’s all about.”
Marist is one of the few teams in the NCAA field that can match Iowa’s offensive balance.
The Red Foxes have five players averaging between 10.9 and 13.6 points per game, led by senior Emma O’Connor.
The 6-foot-0 O’Connor is also Marist’s top rebounder at 6.8 per game and ranks second on the team with 81 assists.
Sophomore Madeline Blais, a 6-foot-1 guard, averages 13 points per game and led the MAAC shooting 48 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Senior guard Leanne Ockenden was the MAAC defensive player of the year and averages 11.7 points per game.
“They’re a very balanced team, kind of like us,” Ockenden said. “I guess it can be difficult at times, playing someone who’s kind of like you, because maybe you have the same tendencies in a way.”
Iowa also features five scorers in double figures led by junior center Bethany Doolittle’s 14.2 points per game.
Guards Samantha Logic (13.4), Melissa Dixon (13.4), Ally Disterhoft (13.2) and Theairra Taylor (12.1) all average at least 12 points per game for the Hawkeyes.
“Their guards are very good, quick, can shoot the ball, and I think our guards are the same,”Ockenden said. “I guess you have to hope for the best and take away their tendencies, and follow the scouting report.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball