Iowa seniors Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock already had their senior days — and they both ended on a pretty high note. I mean, a Caitlin Clark buzzer beating 3 to beat No. 2 Indiana? Can’t get much better than that.
But, in both Hawkeyes’ final games in the arena — a tournament game to send Iowa into the Sweet 16 — the conclusion might have been just as sweet. Tears flowing down their cheeks were likely a byproduct of the emotional goodbye, and the emotional win. Both equally charging.
“I’m just excited to see how far we can go as a team,” Warnock said. “Honestly, I think the sky’s the limit and I’m just so excited. To do it with these girls on this team — there’s no one else I’d rather do it with.”
“It just really feels like we’re writing our own story,” Czinano added. “It’s destiny — like this is bound to happen.”
And, it did. But it wasn’t easy. They faced a Georgia defense that gave them fits. Caitlin Clark only had eight points at the half, and the team committed an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers. It looked like the Lady Bulldogs were going to have a shot in the end.
“Teams are going to want to turn us over,” Clark said. “It’s a weird kind of zone thing. A team is probably not gonna play zone for 40 minutes again. Finding ways to win that are tough — I thought that’s what we did. Way too many turnovers today by us, and maybe some shots that usually go down didn’t go down. But we still found a way to do it. And I think that’s the difference from this year’s team to last year’s team.”
How good was this defense? Well, apparently SEC defense is a completely different style of play. I mean, there are four top 50 scoring defenses from the conference.
“I think this is the first SEC team we’ve faced in a while and they just kind of play a whole different style of basketball,” senior Kate Martin said. “We got their best. And I think they got our best, too. I think every single game teaches you a little bit more and more, it feels like. So it’s really good to get that under our belt.”
And with that — the Hawkeyes are one of 16 remaining. And if there’s any good news: They elude the SEC for at least another round. They’ll face the winner of 3-seed Duke & 6-seed Colorado on Friday in Seattle.
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