SOUTH BEND (AP) — Iowa’s long layoff wasn’t so much the problem Sunday. The Hawkeyes just couldn’t keep long-armed and talented California off the backboards.
Cal had a 41-29 rebounding advantage — 19-7 on the offensive glass — and the Golden Bears survived a late Hawkeyes’ rally for an 84-74 victory in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
“California could write a textbook on how to rebound. They are exceptional at maintaining that persistence for the basketball,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
“There were so many times where they would not have possession of the ball, but they would tip it up in the air and keep going for it.”
The Hawkeyes were playing their first game since March 2 when they lost in the Big Ten tournament, and Bluder didn’t blame rust for the ball-handling mistakes that led to 18 turnovers against Cal’s quick defense.
“I don’t think the press was where we had the turnovers. I felt we had more turnovers on passing decisions, people were in the passing lanes and forcing things there,” Bluder said. “Those are the ones that concern me the most, because those are the ones we should not be making this time of year.”
Kamille Wahlin led No. 9 seed Iowa (19-12) with 15 points. She and Kelly Krei hit late 3-pointers as the Hawkeyes cut a 16-point lead to six with just more than a minute left before Cal salted the game away at the free throw line. Krei, Theairra Taylor and Morgan Johnson finished with 14 points each, and Samantha Logic scored 11 with 11 assists.
“They were very physical with their athleticism and their strength. They were pushing, and I was pushing back. It was definitely a physical game,” said Johnson, the Hawkeyes’ 6-5 center.
Layshia Clarendon led Cal with 16 points, and freshman guard Brittany Boyd had 15. Reshanda Gray had 14 points, and Gennifer Brandon and Talia Caldwell 11 each in the Golden Bears’ balanced attack.
“We’re just so versatile like coach was saying. We have so many weapons,” Clarendon said. “It’s kind of just like, ‘Who’s going to score today?’ Take your pick.”
The Golden Bears built up a 16-point lead in the second half after overcoming some initial jitters since no member of their current roster had ever played in the NCAA tournament.
“I was really nervous, if you couldn’t tell at the beginning of the game,” Boyd said. “I just wanted to come into the game, and in the NCAA tournament you’re one and done. I couldn’t have this be ‘Oh, it was her first tournament game, and she blew it.’”