Improved defense, ‘hunter’ mentality the focus for Hawkeyes WBB this season

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Iowa Hawkeyes guard Kate Martin (20), guard/forward McKenna Warnock (14), guard Gabbie Marshall (24), forward/center Monika Czinano (25) and forward AJ Ediger (34) cheer on their teammates during an exhibition game against Truman State Thursday, November 4, 2021 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

 

The Iowa women’s basketball team was a lot of fun to watch last season. Then-freshman sensation Caitlin Clark had a lot to with that, leading the country in scoring at 26.7 points per game. Her and the country’s leader in field goal percentage Monika Czinano helped the Hawkeyes to have college basketball’s second best offense, lighting up the scoreboard at 86.1 points per game.

“We knew we could outscore every person,” Clark said. “If they scored 90, we could score 93 on them.”

This season is going to be different, for a few reasons. While no one could stop them from scoring last season, they also couldn’t stop anyone either, allowing the nation’s worst 80.3 points per game.

“Just straight up caring more,” Clark said. “Just wanting to be good at defense. I don’t think that was always in the back of our minds.”

Needless to say expect more effort out of them on that side of the court this season. Their offense, basically by itself, was able to carry them to the Sweet Sixteen. Expectations are higher this year for the No. 9 team in the country, and the only way to hit those; defend.

“We did make some schematic changes, a few things, but also it’s just kind of more of an emphasis,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “A buy-in from the players that I think they understand that we got to the Sweet 16 with a tremendous offense, but we could have gone farther if we had had a good defense, as well. They want to go farther. They know that’s what’s hindering us from making that advancement.”

Speaking of higher expectations, it’s not something this team is used to. Despite all their success last season, they didn’t spend any of last season ranked. With a single digit next to their name this year, they’ll have a target on their back.

That’s going to take an adjustment in their mindset. Now they’re going to get everyone’s best shot.

“Be the hunter and not the hunted,” coach Bluder said. “We’re not used to being the hunted. 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. We’ve talked about that as a team, that we have to change our mentality a little bit.”

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