Iowa women defeat Colorado 87-77 to advance to Elite Eight
Up next is Louisville with trip to Final Four on the line
By Susan Harman
You weren’t really worried, were you?
Granted the first half of Iowa’s NCAA Sweet 16 matchup with Colorado had some off-putting moments, like the wide-open threes granted to CU’s best 3-point shooter, and the inability to keep the Buffaloes off the offensive boards.
But a look at the statistics in the first half showed: Iowa shot 50 percent from the floor; made 5-of-11 threes; made 6-of-6 free throws and had only one more turnover than did CU. The Hawkeyes trailed by only one point at half despite looking at times like they were discombobulated.
They regained their equilibrium and got the requisite style points in the second half along with a few bruises and won 87-77 to reach the national quarterfinals on Sunday where they will play Louisville. This is the fifth time Iowa has reached the Elite 8 and the second time since 2019.
“It’s really special,” Iowa super senior Monika Czinano said. “We don’t want this to end. Every single person on this team deserves this.”
Iowa won the game in the third quarter, although some key plays at the end were needed to preserve the lead it established. The Hawks put together a 13-0 run early in the quarter and scored on 11 of 14 possessions to build a 62-47 lead.
The third quarter was a real big difference maker for us,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “We got our transition game going. We really did a good job on Frida Formann. She was having a spectacular first half (19 points).”
“It started on defense for us,” Iowa’s Caitlin Clark said. “I think we had like eight stops in a row. We had a couple O-boards. That’s what leads to really good offense for us. We executed, we got out in transition. Coach Bluder told us that we forced them to use two timeouts at the start of the third quarter.”
Colorado coach JR Payne agreed with the third-quarter analysis: “I think a lot of it was transition offense. I think if we go back and watch it, they were hitting us downhill in transition and had a lot of really just clean, easy looks.
“They’re just relentless as far as just putting their head down and running the floor.”
There were other items to clean up in the second half.
“We needed to do a better job of boxing out and limiting them to one shot per possession,” Czinano said. “When we came out from halftime we started doing a way better job of doing that.”
As to that discombobulated look the Hawkeyes sported for much of the first half, Bluder had a couple suggestions at halftime.
“Basically it was boxing out on defense and denying Frida the ball,” she said. “I mean she was really doing a great job. Offensively we were playing too fast. In the quarter court we were playing way too fast. So it was kind of, ‘Let’s take a deep breath.’”
Reverse the ball, make the extra pass and get the ball inside.
“I felt like I was playing a little frantic,” Clark said. “We were rushed on offense. It felt like we were playing defense longer than a team should have to play defense. I think in the second half we calmed down quite a bit.”
Iowa ended up with four players scoring in double figures: Clark with 31, Kate Martin 16, Czinano 15 and McKenna Warnock 12. Gabbie Marshall had seven and spent much of the game working hard on defense.
“We shot the ball very well tonight, and I’m proud of that because we scored more points on Colorado’s defense than anybody has all year,” Bluder said.
Colorado suffered a big blow when Formann fouled out with 6:35 left in the game. Czinano played only the last four minutes of the fourth quarter because she had four fouls. Addie O’Grady substituted and matched Aaronette Vonleh’s size in the post. Bluder explained that Hannah Stuelke’s style didn’t matchup with Vonleh’s strength and girth in the post, and O’Grady was a better fit in this game.
Iowa led the rest of the way, but it got a bit dicey in the final few minutes. Iowa was nursing a 78-74 lead after Jaylyn Sherrod scored in transition with 1:49 left to play. Knowing it had to score Iowa was looking into the post for Czinano.
“Any time you need a big bucket at the end of the game we’re looking to get Mon the ball just because she’s so efficient in there,” Clark said.
With the shot clock running down Clark got the ball to Czinano in the lane. With the 6-foot-3 Vonleh draped all over her, Czinano turned and somehow got off a left-handed hook over Vonleh and into the basket.
“It was not an easy finish at all,” Clark said. “It was a huge bucket for us.”
Colorado’s Quay Miller missed a three and Czinano rebounded. Martin converted two free throws after Sherrod fouled out for an 82-74 lead. Vonleh was called for an intentional foul on a moving screen that sent Marshall to the ground. Martin made two more foul shots and the game was all but over.
In the second half Iowa made 16 of 27 shots.
Iowa and Louisville meet at 8 p.m. on Sunday at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Elite Vibes. #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/xHp8UZKLmZ
— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) March 25, 2023