March 16, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa women's basketball team heads to the Pacific Northwest with a chip on its shoulder. The Hawkeyes feel as they're being discounted despite being higher seeded team in the Spokane Region of the NCAA Tournament. <
"I think we have to look at it as a chip on the shoulder," said UI head coach Lisa Bluder during her NCAA Tournament press conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "For one thing everybody in the whole country thinks we're beat already; we might as well not even go out there.
"Every media person you talk to thinks we're not -- the team that's going to win is going to be UCLA playing Gonzaga for the next game. That kind of irritates you as a competitor that everybody's counting you out."
The Hawkeyes are the only six seed in the tournament that didn't get a draw to play at home or on a neutral court. Fellow Big Ten Conference school Penn State is hosting a first round game, while Georgia and Oklahoma are both playing on neutral courts.
"We have to travel the farthest than anybody," said Bluder. "We've been dealt a tough blow."
Gonzaga's home court -- the McCarthey Athletic Center -- may have gotten a tad bit tougher with the news that came out of Spokane Wednesday. The Bulldogs sold out their 6,000 seat facility for the opening weekend, which marks the third time in program history that the team will be playing before a sellout crowd.
"I heard it was almost sold out two weeks ago," said Bluder. "It's a 6,000-seat arena. It's smaller than the Knapp Center (Drake's facility) in Des Moines, and we've only played in one of those type of places all year.
Bluder compared Gonzaga's style of play to Penn State, a team that handed Iowa two losses during the regular season.
"Penn State is the closest team who they remind me of in the way they push the ball," said Bluder. "It doesn't matter if it's a steal, a rebound, or a made basket, they're pushing the ball down the floor extremely well.
"They're the No. 1 offense bar none, just to push the ball, push the ball, push the ball, and they're very effective at it."
The player that pushes the ball so effective is Courtney Vandersloot, the 2011 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner, which is handed out to the best point guard in the nation. The three-time West Coast Conference Player of the Year averaged 18.6 points per game to go along with 10.2 assists per contest, which was tops in the nation.
Bluder doesn't see a specific blueprint to stopping Gonzaga or slowing down Vandersloot, but her All-America candidate, Kachine Alexander, is someone she thinks will be up for the challenge.
"Kash loves challenges," said Bluder. "You give her a challenge and watch out, that's when she's at her best. We've given her the challenge, and I think she's very excited about trying to contain Vandersloot and control her assists and scoring.
"Kash has had such a good senior year, and I want this so bad for her, for those seniors, to go out on a positive note and to feel good about getting a couple of NCAA Tournament wins. That would be the frosting on the cake for us."
Saturday's game is set to begin at 3 p.m., and it will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and webcast on ESPN3 with Marc Kestecher and Krista Blunk calling the action.