Hawkeye women draw Marist; Louisville looms

Women's basketball: Iowa qualifies for 7th straight year, earns No. 6 seed in Louisville Region

Jeff Linder
Published: March 17 2014 | 7:14 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:46 am in

IOWA CITY -- Solid seed. Rough draw.

The Iowa Hawkeyes earned their seventh consecutive bid to the NCAA women's basketball tournament Monday. No surprise there.

Iowa earned a No. 6 seed, which matches its second-best under Coach Lisa Bluder. The Hawkeyes (26-8) face 11th-seeded Marist (27-6) Sunday; tipoff is 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in a game televised by ESPN2 (Brenda Van Lengen and Holly Rowe with the call).

The scouting report on the Red Foxes may require a good look in the mirror.

"I don't know a lot about them, but I know they're very similar to us," Bluder said. "They have five players that average in double figures. They're a good 3-point shooting team."

Marist earned its ninth straight NCAA bid by rallying from a 17-point deficit to beat Quinnipiac, 70-66, in the championship game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament last Monday. The Red Foxes were MAAC regular-season co-champions and have won 25 of their last 27 games, including nine straight.

Iowa is rated 25th, finished in a fourth-place tie in the Big Ten and was the runner-up to Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament.

"We're playing great ball," said freshman Ally Disterhoft, who will play in her first NCAA. "We've got great chemistry. But we can't look past any team."

The Marist-Iowa game is the back end of a first-round Carver double-header Sunday. No. 3-seed Louisville (30-4) faces 14th-seed Idaho (25-8) at 4:30 p.m.

Louisville was the NCAA runner-up last year and is ranked No. 4 in the final USA Today coaches' poll.

Three of the Cardinals' losses came to No. 1 Connecticut; the other to Kentucky.

"That's some huge competition," said point guard Samantha Logic. "If we take care of business -- I'm confident we can do it, but you can't look too far ahead."

Sunday's winners play at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Carver. Tuesday's survivor advances to the Sweet 16 at Louisville, Ky.

"We want to make the Sweet 16 (for the first time since 1996)," said Theairra Taylor, the lone senior on the Iowa roster. "I want to keep playing. And I want to keep wearing this jersey. That's definitely extra motivation."

As Bluder mentioned, the Iowa-Marist encounter is Balance vs. Balance.

All of Iowa's starters average in double figures, led by Bethany Doolittle at 14.2 points per game. Same story for the Red Foxes; five players average between 10.9 and 13.6 points per game, led by Emma O'Connor.

The Hawkeyes will have a size advantage inside with the 6-foot-4 Doolittle. Marist does not start a true center, and its tallest starter is 6-1.

Still, Marist is traditionally an extremely tough out in NCAA play. To overlook the team from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has proven to be a perilous proposition.

* In 2007, the Red Foxes won two games as a No. 13 seed (over Ohio State and Middle Tennessee) and advanced to the Sweet 16.

* They beat DePaul in 2008 and Iowa State in 2011.

* In 2012, again as a 13 seed, they upset Georgia.

This year's Marist team has an RPI of 41 (Iowa is 23). Coach Brian Giorgis owns a 12-year record of 304-86, and his winning percentage of .779 ranks fourth-best among active Division I coaches behind Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), Tara VanDerveer (Stanford) and Kim Mulkey (Baylor).

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