116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Why change? Why now?
The Iowa Hawkeyes' identity is this - a women's basketball team that scores a ton, and gives up nearly as much. They rank No. 2 in the nation in scoring, 336th (that's dead last) in scoring defense.
'We score at a high rate. We push the ball,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. 'We're trying to score at a high rate of speed. That's us.”
And they're not going to switch from a sprint to a jog Saturday. Not against top-ranked Connecticut. Not against anybody.
'If I was Lisa, I wouldn't change a thing,” UConn Coach Geno Auriemma said. 'Not if I had the team she has. They look like they can score 100 every night.
'You get to this stage, and you've got to be who you are. If you change too much, you lose a little of what got you here.”
Iowa (20-9) takes its shot at the mighty Huskies (26-1) in an NCAA regional semifinal Saturday. Tipoff is noon at the Alamodome in San Antonio in a game televised nationally on ABC.
'I'm not going to be star-struck,” freshman guard Caitlin Clark said. 'It's a cool opportunity, more than anything. When we step on the court, we're not going to be scared.
'Everybody has belief.”
True, UConn is five years removed from its last national championship. But this program remains the bar in which all others are compared. The Huskies are in the Sweet 16 for the 27th consecutive tournament. Since that run began in 1994, only two teams (Iowa State in 1999, Stanford in 2005) have knocked them out in this round.
Clark was asked Thursday about her thoughts of facing a women's basketball 'blue blood.”
'It's our second consecutive Sweet 16. We just made the Elite Eight (in 2019),” she said. 'Coach Bluder has been around a long time. She knows what she's doing. She flat-out wins.
'I'm just focused on building a consistent culture the next three years. I don't care what anybody else thinks of us.”
The architect of the UConn dynasty, Auriemma is back on the bench after missing the first two rounds due to COVID-19.
'It was the most unusual feeling, just sitting and watching,” he said. 'The good point, I could just get up and walk out. A couple of times, I got up and left.
'(When I rejoined the team), I saw their reactions, and part of me was really appreciative. The other part, I knew it was another opportunity for them to post something (on social media). They just wanted content for their followers. I know how they operate, believe me.”
Since the brackets were revealed, the national experts pointed to this potential matchup as a spotlight of the nation's top two freshmen - Clark and UConn's Paige Bueckers.
'I don't think either of us care who is going to be the freshman of the year,” Clark said. 'But I do think it's great for the game. More and more people are noticing, and more and more people are watching.”
Auriemma can't recall a time in which two freshmen were so good, so soon.
'I don't,” he said. 'I don't.
'It's been a while since you've had two kids with this kind of impact on their teams. To have one, it's kind of cool. To have two, and to be so alike in so many ways ...
'It's an unfortunate situation. If there's a big football game and they bill it as Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers, and you know it couldn't be further from the truth. They're two young players that do a lot for their teams, but like it always is, they're just a part of it.”
Clark leads the nation in scoring at 26.8 points per game and is second in assists per game, at 7.2. Bueckers scores at a 19.9-point clip, shoots 53.9 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from long range.
'UConn has a lot more than just Paige,” Clark said. 'They have so many talented players. They're just their own type. They're different in so many ways.”
This Iowa team is, by far, the most prolific outfit in school history, scoring 86.6 points per game. But the Hawkeyes allow 79.9. UConn gets it done on both ends, scoring 82.8 per game and yielding 50.7.
'Great teams play both offense and defense, right?” Bluder said. 'And they do both well. I love that all five can score. They shoot a high field-goal percentage, high 3-point percentage. Their spacing is good. They don't take bad shots.”
The Hawkeyes aren't going to ease off the throttle Saturday. And neither are the Huskies.
'If they want to run, we'll run right with them,” UConn's Christy Williams said.
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