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Hawkeyes focused on tuning up defense

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 8:18 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - For the first time in 25 years, the University of Iowa Women’s Basketball team received their highest preseason ranking at ninth in the Associated Press Poll.

“We’re not used to that. Sometimes I feel like we play a little bit better with a chip on our shoulder and people not expecting a lot out of us,” Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder explained about her team being in the spotlight.

With nine letterwinners returning including all five starters, a lot of eyes are on the Hawkeyes. Last season, the Sweet 16 team put together a good recipe for offensive success, but now have put a point of emphasis on their defense.

“I think they understand that we got to the Sweet 16 with a tremendous offense, but we could have went farther if we would of had a good defense as well. They want to go farther. They know that that’s what hindering us from making that advancement,” added Bluder.

Iowa led the country last season in field goal percentage. That’s partially because they boast one of the most entertaining college basketball players in the country. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Caitlin Clark, led the country in field goals and total assists. She knows in order for Iowa to reach the Final Four, their defense needs to step up.

“I think just straight up caring about it for all of us, like wanting to be good at defense. I don’t think that was really in the back of our minds because we knew we could outscore [opponents]. We knew if they scored 90, we could score 93 on them, but we don’t want to do that this year. We want to make it easier on ourselves,” said Clark.

The top two leaders in field goal percentage last season wore an Iowa uniform. In addition to Clark, senior Monika Czinano was a big contributor. The duo only hopes to grow their chemistry.

“We’ve had a chance to build on that foundation and grow upon it and kind of see it flourish,” said Czinano. “I think we just know each other better now. Each others cues, what we respond well to, what we don’t. I think that’s going to be a huge advantage for us.”

“I think Monika knows me super well by now,” explained Clark. “I think at the beginning of last year, I nailed her in the face a couple times with a couple passes just because she wasn’t really expecting them. Monica honestly has really good hands. She knows the game super well, she knows angles. She knows what I’m going to do even if I’m not looking at her. Honestly, I think she’s one of the most underrated people in the country.”

Two preseason injuries may have affected the Hawkeyes depth, but they did benefit from the transfer portal adding Kylie Feuerbach from Iowa State.

“They want to focus a little more on defense this year and that’s something I really want to contribute in. I really like defense, so if that’s something they want me to help them in, I obviously want to be there,” said Feuerbach. “I just want to contribute in any way I need to.”

Bluder said season ticket sales are going over well and the Hawkeyes are very ready to return to Carver Hawkeye Arena in front of their home crowd fans.

“People don’t realize how big of an advantage it is to have all the people in Carver all cheering for you at the same time. It makes it so hard for our opponents and so much better for us. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Czinano.

Iowa will tip off the season Thursday, November 4 in Iowa City with an exhibition game against Truman State.

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