Louisville 1 win away from home NCAA regional
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) At least one team is heading to Louisville. Maybe two.
The Cardinals are one win away from playing in the NCAA tournament regional hosted by their school. Standing in their way is an Iowa team that really enjoyed its home-court advantage in the first round.
Third-seeded Louisville (31-4) played more like a top seed in its 88-42 blowout of Idaho in the first round on Sunday. But Iowa looked nearly as good, shooting 57 percent in an 87-65 win over Marist that was a lot easier than most thought it would be.
The Cardinals and the sixth-seeded Hawkeyes (27-8) will meet Tuesday in the second round in Iowa City for a spot in the Sweet 16. The winner will face LSU or West Virginia in Louisville on Sunday.
The Cardinals are the favorites even though it’s a road game. But Iowa is 14-3 at home this season and is clearly more comfortable at Carver-Hawkeye Arena than anywhere else.
”It’s a ballclub that presents a lot of problems for us. We’re going to have to defend extremely well. We’re going to have to defend the 3-point line well,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. ”We definitely don’t want to give them wide-open looks.”
Here are five things to watch for the game in Iowa City:
SCHIMMEL TIMES TWO: Senior point guard Shoni Schimmel gets the majority of the attention for the Cardinals, and deservedly so since she leads the team with 16.8 points a game and 129 assists. But Shoni’s little sister Jude has quietly blossomed into an important cog for Louisville, and her versatility was on display in Sunday’s tournament opener. Jude had 14 points, four assists and three steals. She also helped the Cardinals overcome a sluggish start. ”Jude is the spark and energy we need off the bench. When things aren’t going our way offensively and defensively, she sets the tone,” forward Sara Hammond said.
DEFYING LOGIC: Shoni Schimmel isn’t the only star point guard in Iowa City this week. Hawkeyes junior Samantha Logic has three triple-doubles this season, and she came within one rebound of her fourth in Sunday’s win over the Red Foxes. Logic finished with 11 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds – the third time she’s been a board shy of a triple-double this year alone. Logic leads Big Ten players in assists and steals per game, and she’s 12th in shooting at 48.8 percent. ”This is a pretty unbelievable matchup between these two guards because they emulate each other quite a bit,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
BALANCED HAWKEYES: The Hawkeyes had five players score in double figures in their win over Marist, but that’s nothing new. Iowa has five players averaging between 12 and 14 points a game, and its balance has been a key component of its success. The Hawkeyes got 76 points from their starters in the win over Marist, and four of them played at least 31 minutes.
OFFENSIVE SHOWDOWN: Iowa led the Big Ten in scoring this season at 78.6 points a game. But the Cardinals can score as well as anyone on the country, averaging 79.1 points per game, and they’re 16-0 when cracking the 70-point plateau. Louisville also shot over 50 percent for the 13th time this season in the win over Idaho, connecting on 39 of 68 shots despite a cold start. ”They’re great in transition. They can shoot the ball really well,” Iowa’s Theairra Taylor said. ”We have to go out and communicate.”
BIRD SEED: The Hawkeyes have never made the Sweet 16 in 14 seasons under Bluder, often because they’ve had to play a top seed in the second round to get there. Louisville might be seeded third, but Bluder doesn’t think Iowa caught any breaks by getting them on Tuesday. ”It’s pretty crazy to think of them as being a three seed when they’ve ranked among the very, very top all year long,” Bluder said.