ND Women's Basketball: On the road again
Irish square off against Iowa in Iowa City for Sweet 16 bid
Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 01:03
No. 2 Notre Dame may be the top seed in the Norfolk region, but it will be the road team tonight.
The Irish (32-1, 16-0 Big East) will face No. 9-seeded Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, tonight with a birth in the Sweet Sixteen on the line. The game against the Hawkeyes (21-12, 8-8 Big Ten) marks the second time in three years Notre Dame has played a true road game early in the tournament. In the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament, the Irish beat Utah in Salt Lake City.
Fortunately for the Irish, they have not lost a road game this season.
“Iowa has a home-court advantage here, everyone knows that,” Notre Dame junior forward Natalie Achonwa said. “And I think we’ve played a lot of great … away games this year and I think it’s just about focusing on what we’re going to do and how we’re going to play and just trying to take the crowd out of it.”
Irish coach Muffet McGraw echoed Achonwa’s confidence heading into a hostile environment.
“I think we’ve been road-tested,” she said. “We’re battle-tested, we’re undefeated on the road and so that’s kind of the message we’re sending out [to the] team. We’ve gone to Connecticut, we’ve gone to Tennessee, we’ve gone to a lot of tough places on the road, so we know what that’s going to be like.
“The crowd’s going to be against us, there are going to be a lot of people cheering against us. You would hope that we get some more Notre Dame fans out there tonight to balance that out, but we’re ready to go.”
Much like Notre Dame, Iowa looks to several different players to provide scoring. 6-foot-5 senior center Morgan Johnson and 6-foot-4 sophomore center Bethany Doolittle anchor the paint for the Hawkeyes. The frontcourt duo averages a combined 21.5 points and 13.1 rebounds per game.
“They are very tall and lean. … They work well together within their team and their motion,” Achonwa said of Johnson and Doolittle. “I think it’s just going to be about being physical. Iowa’s physical, we’re going to play physical.”
In addition to the two centers, Iowa relies on a trio of talented guards in sophomores Melissa Dixon and Samantha Logic and senior Jaime Printy. Both Dixon and Printy average double-digit points per game, while Logic has dished out 6.4 assists per game this season.
Irish freshman guard Jewell Loyd said Notre Dame will have to play fundamentally sound defense to contain the Hawkeyes’ perimeter players.
“They are all good guards, they all can shoot the ball really well,” Loyd said. “Logic is a really good passer, so containing the ball definitely with her. I think just being able to stay to our principles in our defense and we’ll see where that takes us.”
McGraw said Logic and her teammates present a unique defensive challenge because the Irish will not be able to assign a second defender to any one Iowa player.
“I think that [Logic] is definitely somebody that’s a challenge for us,” McGraw said. “You have Printy and Dixon with great 3-point shooting ability, so you got to go out and guard on the perimeter and then you have the inside presence, so they’ve got a really good, balanced team.
“I don’t think you can leave anyone to go double anyone else. I think you have to really play them straight-up, so I think it’s a challenge for u, defensively.”
Notre Dame and Iowa will tip at 9:40 p.m. today in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
Contact Cory Bernard at firstname.lastname@example.org