NCAA Preview: Iowa vs. Creighton
#2 IOWA HAWKEYES (24-7) vs #10 CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS (21-9)
INFO: 12:00pm on ABC
The Hawkeyes and Bluejays will be facing off for a trip to Greensboro, NC to play in the Sweet 16. Lisa Bluder is looking to get to her fourth Sweet 16 with the Hawkeyes, while Jim Flanery is still searching for his first Sweet 16 appearance with Creighton.
Iowa defeated #15 seed Illinois State 98-58 on Friday, led by a 27 point, 10 assist double-double from Caitlin Clark. Creighton took down #7 seed Colorado in the first round by a final score of 84-74. The Jays were led by four scorers in double figures, including 20 points by Morgan Maly off the bench.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena will be sold out for the third straight home game and back-to-back NCAA Tournament sellouts of 14,382. That unofficially breaks the record for highest two-day attendance in tournament history, which was previously held by Iowa when they had 23,096 attend back in 2019.
“Getting that viewership for women's basketball in general, it's showing that more people are wanting to watch women's basketball and wanting to watch us play,” said Gabbie Marshall. “It's exciting, that's what you want, as a woman's basketball player, it's cool to see the amount of people that are watching your games.”
THE NUMBERS – OFFENSE
IOWA: 84.9 points (2nd), 50.7% FG (1st), 35.5% 3pt (23rd), 84.5% FT (1st), 38.4 rebounds (102nd), 14.7 TO (112th)
CREIGHTON: 75.1 points (20th), 46.0% FG (9th), 37.0% 3pt (10th), 73.6% FT (90th), 35.9 rebounds (217th), 12.9 TO (30th)
THE NUMBERS – DEFENSE
IOWA: 70.4 points (306th), 39.0% FG (133rd), 29.9% 3pt (131st), +3.6 rebounding margin (87th), 14.0 TO (286th)
CREIGHTON: 63.8 points (82nd), 41.9% FG (273rd), 33.7% 3pt (310th), +3.5 rebounding margin (91st), 14.3 TO (272nd)
PG Caitlin Clark – 27.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 33.3% 3pt, 45.9% FG
G Kate Martin – 7.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 46.4% FG
G Gabbie Marshall – 6.8 points, 39.6% 3pt, 49 steals
F McKenna Warnock – 11.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 41.2% 3pt, 52.0% FG
C Monika Czinano – 21.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 68.3% FG
G Tatum Rembao – 7.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 39.3% FG
G Lauren Jensen – 12.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 43.7% 3pt, 43.9% FG
G Payton Brotzki – 4.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 40.8% FG
F Carly Bachelor – 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 56.6% FG
F Emma Ronsiek – 14.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 35.7% 3pt, 50.2% FG
F Morgan Maly – 12.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 36.9% 3pt, 42.4% FG
G Molly Mogensen – 6.4 points, 46.3% 3pt, 49.3% FG
G Rachael Saunders – 5.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 44.9% FG
This match-up is a little bit different for the Hawkeyes than what they have been accustomed to all season. The Big Ten is known for having good post players, including names like Naz Hillmon, Mackenzie Holmes and Iowa’s own Monika Czinano. Creighton runs a rotation that can sometimes be thought of as a five-guard rotation.
“They basically play all guards. All of them can shoot. It's just their style. It always has been. A lot of screening action on the perimeter. So, we'll basically be defending from the outside/in,” said Caitlin Clark. “That's not usually what you see in the Big Ten. Usually, they're playing at least one solid post at a time…And their girls can go inside and post up and do that, but they can all shoot the 3 at the exact same time.”
6’1 F Emma Ronsiek is about as close as the Bluejays have to a post threat, but she can step out to shoot the 3pt shot and she does it at a 35.7% clip. Ronsiek has scored 20+ points in six games, including 30 against St. John’s and leads the team in scoring. She could be a bit of a match-up issue for the Hawkeyes, just because she is so versatile and can play all around the court.
“She's so versatile. That's what makes her so good,” said Coach Lisa Bluder. “That's what makes players, elevate them from being a good player to a great player. When they can score in a variety of ways, when they can put the ball on the deck, post up, shoot 3s, that's what she can do.”
While Bluder was not about to share her game plan with us, I think it would be fair to guess that the Hawkeyes will use a good bit of zone against the Bluejays. That would allow Czinano to guard Ronsiek in the post and allow the rest of the defense guard her when she is on the perimeter.
As a whole, Creighton has a number of offensive options, and they shoot it as well as anyone from behind the arc. They rank 10th in the country in 3pt% at 37.0% and 3rd in 3pt makes per game with 10.2.
“Creighton is a really good 3-point shooting team. They play a lot of 5-out, and they're going to shoot the ball a lot. And they push the ball well in transition,” said Kate Martin. “I think they’re similar to us in wanting to shoot the ball…we’re just getting prepared for that; we’ll be ready to guard the 3-point line.”
G Lauren Jensen is the biggest threat behind the arc for the Bluejays and the Hawkeyes are very familiar with her, as she transferred to Creighton from Iowa last season. The sophomore shoots nearly 45% from behind the arc and averages 12.4 points per game.
“She's had a tremendous year for Creighton. It's been fun getting to follow her success. And (I) was happy to see that,” said Caitlin Clark. “I think getting on the floor tomorrow, like you're both competitors, you're both wanting to compete, is the biggest thing, and we'll have our game faces on.”
G Morgan Maly comes off the bench, but is third on the team in scoring and can really shoot it from deep as well at 36.9%. Despite coming off the bench, she still averages 21.1 minutes per game and she caps off the trio of really good 3pt shooters on Creighton. The Hawkeyes will have to guard the perimeter very well because they cannot expect the Bluejays to replicate the 6/36 shooting performance Illinois State put up on Friday.
“She's definitely very dangerous, and I think a lot of people are going to have a hard time with scouting her because she is so versatile,” said Creighton’s Emma Ronsiek. “She can score in the post, and she can shoot the three like no other. So, I'm very excited to see how they're going to match up with her tomorrow.”
Probably too far down in the preview to mention PG Tatum Rembao for the first time, as she is the key to Creighton’s offensive vehicle, starting most offensive possessions with the ball in her hands. She isn’t a top scorer on the team, but she leads the team with 185 assists (6.2 apg) and has the type of passion and competitiveness that you see with Caitlin Clark.
Jim Flanery talked about how Rembao can get heated in games and make suggestions in game to the coaching staff saying, “In the moment you don't love it because you think that there's kind of this questioning of authority, but two seconds later after I breathe, I love it because she's a competitor, and she's made her point and now I'm either going to think about it and do it or don't do it,” said Flanery. “All is fine 10 seconds later, but I think that's a part of what's made her an effective leader.”
Senior G Rachael Saunders hails from Iowa City West High School (5.6 ppg) and she joins G Payton Brotzki (4.1 ppg), G Molly Mogensen (6.4 ppg) and G Carly Bachelor (8.1 ppg) as the other main options off the bench for the Bluejays. Altogether, Creighton has seven players that average 20+ points per game. All four of them shoot over 30% from 3pt range, which just shows how much depth they have along the perimeter.
While Coach Bluder did not share a whole lot of what they will do defense wise, Creighton Coach Jim Flanery gave a bit look into how they will guard Caitlin Clark. The answer is more than one person will be called on to help.
“We will rotate people on to Caitlin. We will not put Tatum on her for 35 minutes. We've got three people who will guard her for X amount of time,” said Coach Flanery.
He mentioned that Iowa has a lot of weapons, so from a scheme standpoint you can only do so much to slow a team down. However, Flanery is confident that his roster has enough options that they can put a defender on Clark for three- or four-minute stretches, so that everyone stays as fresh as possible. Whether that works for the Bluejays? That remains to be seen.
Monika Czinano has had as good a stretch as anyone in the country, scoring 186 points (23.3 ppg) on 78/99 (78.8%) shooting from the floor, while also grabbing 49 rebounds. She leads the nation in field goal percentage, and it seems like no matter what angle you force her into, she can use the glass to convert or use a, dare I say, dribble to get into position.
“She’s a product of a team that shoots it well and passes it well, too,” said Jim Flanery. “She’s so efficient in terms of just that catch and quick finish.”
Flanery mentioned game planning for Megan Gustafson in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but everything they preached in preparation went by the wayside when Gustafson countered their plans by scoring anyway. It’s possible the same could happen with Czinano.
“Sometimes when they're that good, they're that good,” said Flanery. “You've still got to make them do what they have shown that they're maybe a little less capable of on film.”
Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano combine for nearly 57% of the Hawkeyes scoring, but the rest of the starting lineup, including Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall and McKenna Warnock will be called on like they have been all season. Bench options like Addison O’Grady, Tomi Taiwo and Kylie Feuerbach will be called on for big minutes as well.
In close games, sometimes the performances outside of the main members can be the decider. We have seen a variety of those names step up throughout the year. Most recently, with Kate Martin during the Big Ten Tournament and Gabbie Marshall on Friday with three 3pt makes.
This game is going to have a track meet feel to it and will be a high scoring affair. Both teams shoot it incredibly well from behind the arc and like to get out and run in transition. Both Bluder and Flanery will admit that.
“I think both teams are -- this is not a knock against Iowa, but both teams are better offensively than they are defensively. I think Lisa and staff and team would agree to that,” said Flanery.
Bluder agreed and mentioned it in her opening statement saying, “Very offensively explosive. Can shoot the 3 really well. Passes the ball really well. They do some of the things we like to do. And it could be a real track meet tomorrow.”
The Hawkeyes are going to have to defend the perimeter well and not let Creighton get some of the open looks that Illinois State got on Friday. The Bluejays five guard “small ball” lineup, as Caitlin calls it, can provide some match-up issues for the Hawkeyes, but on the other end, Iowa has to take advantage of the height that Czinano has in the post.
Both teams’ rate in the top ten in offensive rating, while both teams are north of 190 in defensive rating. It’s going to be high scoring; it’s going to be fast and it’s going to come down to the wire. The one number that hasn’t been addressed is 14,382. Carver will be packed, and it will be loud. The players have talked many times about how much of a boost the crowd gives them and that may just be enough to carry Iowa to the Sweet 16. Iowa 90 Creighton 79