March 18, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) – Ninth-seeded California meets No. 8 seed Iowa on Sunday in a first-round game of the Raleigh regional at Purcell Pavilion in the Joyce Center with the winner likely having to face top seed Notre Dame on its home court in the next round.
Three of Cal’s nine losses were to No. 2 Stanford, including one in the finals of the Pac-12 tourney.
Cal (24-9) been especially tough on the boards and led by 6-2 Gennifer Brandon, 6-3 Reshanda Gray and 6-3 Talia Caldwell had an average rebound margin of 13.2 over its opponents this season.
No player on Cal’s current roster has been to the NCAA tournament before, as the Golden Bears are making their first trip since 2009.
“I’ve never been here before so it is something that when you don’t hear your name called and the difference when you do, it was ecstatic,” leading scorer Layshia Clarendon said.
“It’s that thing of not having it and then having it. You appreciate hearing your name called and you get to write your name in the NCAA bracket as opposed to the WNIT bracket. It is a great experience, a humbling experience because we worked so hard to get here.”
Sunday’s game starts at 12:10, which is 9:10 a.m. on the west coast, a little bit early. First-year coach Lindsay Gottlieb brought her team to town Thursday to get acclimated to the time change and says it’s now not a big deal.
“I can tell this team they are playing on the moon at 3 a.m., and when that ball is tipped, I think they would be ready to go,” she said. “I don’t think it will be a factor.”
Iowa (19-11) could be a bit rusty, not having played for more than two weeks. The Hawkeyes won eight straight before losing to Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament March 2. Six of those wins came after leading scorer Jaime Printy (16.9 ppg) tore her ACL at Wisconsin on Feb. 2.
“The first thought that went through your head when she went down was … I can’t say it,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
“You are completely sick. Anytime a player gets hurt, it’s an awful situation for any team. But when you take a person that has been in the starting lineup for three years and is the leading scorer and was preseason pick all-Big Ten, it is a little bit magnified. … Even though Jamie was our leading scorer and took the most shots, truly our team has never been a team that has been star-oriented or that we have set everything up for this player.”
Kamille Wahlin has really stepped up her game, averaging 17 points since Printy was hurt.
“I think everyone is going to pitch in a little extra, because they know that’s what they have to do,” Wahlin said.
Making their fifth straight trip to the NCAAs, the Hawkeyes are hoping their long respite won’t have an effect, but it’s been difficult keeping an edge by scrimmaging and practicing for more than two weeks.
“It is a strange layoff, too, because it is the only time of the year when you don’t know where you are going to play, who you are going to play and when you are going to play,” Bluder said. “So we go through about a 12-day period when we don’t even know who the opponent is going to be, so that time you work on your weaknesses. You look at what you need to do to make your team better and then after Monday night, we shifted the focus to California.”