Sweet win: Iowa women’s basketball beats Georgia to advance to NCAA Sweet 16 Tournament

Iowa women’s basketball secured its ninth-place finish for the NCAA Sweet 16 Tournament on Sunday, eliminating Georgia at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa center Monika Czinano hugs teammate Caitlin Clark after winning the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Second Round game against No. 10 Georgia at a sold-out Carver Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, March 19, 2022. The Hawkeyes beat the Lady Bulldogs, 74-66. Cziznano scored 22 points in the win.

There was no home heartbreak for the Hawkeyes on Sunday afternoon.

After Iowa Women’s Basketball was ousted by 10th seed Creighton in the second round at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, the Hawkeyes “righted the wrong” in 2023, eliminating Georgia, 10th seed, 74-66, and punching their ticket to the Sweet 16 in Seattle.

But on Sunday, losing to Creighton was not on their minds.

“That was last year,” said head coach Lisa Bluder. “We used it for motivation that summer, but it’s not something we talked about this week. Now it might be on everyone’s mind, but it’s not “It’s not something we really talked about. It feels good to win this game, for sure. But it’s more that we beat a really good Georgia team and advanced to the Sweet 16. And we can play another week.”

The Hawkeyes relied almost entirely on their five starters on Sunday, with junior guard Caitlin Clark playing the full 40 minutes.

Clark was a point guard throughout the game, scoring 22 points and providing 12 assists — she was responsible for 31 of Iowa’s 33 points in the second half.

“I really didn’t want to let this team lose again in this round,” Clark said. “And I knew I had to step up and make plays for this team. And I thought I was able to grab their area with my eyes and get the ball inside.

RELATED: Iowa Women’s Basketball Seeks to ‘Right the Wrong’, Advances to NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Each Hawkeye starter played more than 37 minutes on Sunday, with just three players coming off the bench.

Iowa had no bench points, in part due to the absence of rookie Hannah Stuelke. Stuelke, who is usually the first to come off the bench for the Hawkeyes, did not play Sunday due to an ankle injury sustained in practice Saturday.

“It literally happened in the last three minutes of practice yesterday; she just spun her ankle,” Bluder said. “They did treatments on it last night, then this morning, and I really thought she was going to be able to go today. But when she entered the locker room after the first warm-up, I knew it was going to be harder.

Bluder added that Stuelke should be available for the Hawkeyes’ Sweet 16 game in Seattle on Friday.

Main guard Molly Davis was also injured early in the first quarter, playing just two minutes in the game. Bluder said Davis should be fine too and that she hadn’t heard anything bad about Davis’ condition.

With Stuelke and Davis unavailable, the Hawkeyes’ main bench rotation narrowed to Sydney Affolter and Addy O’Grady, who played less than seven minutes combined.

While the Hawkeyes had a short bench, Bluder credited ABC’s trade length for keeping his starters rested.

“The good thing is ABC, you have a bit longer wait times,” Bluder said. “…It’s just too bad that Hannah fell. Of course, when Molly came downstairs right away, I mean, it’s just one of those things; but honestly, our players never lowered their heads, they never got angry.

Now Iowa has its ninth-place finish in the Sweet 16 — its fourth since 2015 — and will face the winner of No. 3 Duke and No. 6 Colorado in Seattle on Friday. Even though the Hawkeyes have righted their wrong, they have higher aspirations this year.

“I think anytime you’re on the 16 teams that play basketball, it’s pretty special,” Clark said. “But that wasn’t a big part of our celebration in the dressing room. It was not our goal. It’s one of our steps to reach our goal, but it’s not the end for us. It’s the first weekend, and we won, and now we have a second weekend. And we hope that there will also be a third weekend.


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