Hawkeyes prepare for big chances > Oregon

IOWA CITY — When McKenna Warnock got a quick first look at the women’s basketball schedule in Iowa, something big stood out.

The chance to play at the Phil Knight Legacy this weekend, a field that includes traditional Portland power Connecticut, Duke and Oregon State, jumped the page.

“This tournament is a great opportunity,” Warnock said on Monday. “We’ve never been there, so it’s super exciting for us. It will be a good opportunity for us to see where we are at the beginning of the season.”

The tournament offers invitations. Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said it was an easy answer.

“You’re only invited if you’re one of the best teams in the country, and we’re excited to represent the University of Iowa at this tournament,” said Bluder. “It’s one of those dates circled on the calendar for a long time.”

People also read…

With five returning starters from a year ago and two All-Americans in guard Caitlin Clark and center Monika Czinano, the Hawkeyes are the kind of team this event is looking for.

Bluder believes the Hawkeyes are ready for the kind of competition they will see over the weekend after a 4-1 start.

In addition to a third-place Connecticut team that has won its first three games, Duke is 5-0 and receiving votes in this week’s Associated Press poll, and Oregon State also starts 4-0.

Before the ninth-place Hawkeyes even consider a possible big match with third-place Connecticut or Duke, they have a different kind of big challenge with the Beavers.

Oregon State starts 6-foot-9 Jelena Mitrovic in the post and also boasts 6-2 freshman forward Raegan Beers, who was named Monday’s Pac-12 freshman of the week after scoring double-doubles averaging 20.5 had scored points and 12 rebounds in the last week’s wins over east Washington and Prairie View A&M.

Bluder said the size Iowa will face in its tournament opener had assistant head coach Jan Jensen looking for a step stool to stand on during practice to simulate the size of Oregon state.

“You’re not going to shoot above 6-9,” Bluder said. “We have told our players that their normal post moves are not working. You have to find another way to get to the basket.”

Ideally, Bluder would like the Bigs to play off the basket as much as possible.

“That’s generally our goal anyway. We like to do without as few paint spots as possible and that would be helpful with this size,” says Bluder.

Bluder believes Oregon State has their team’s attention.

She said experience on the Iowa roster led her to believe the Hawkeyes wouldn’t look beyond Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game to Sunday’s game two.

“Caitlin was there when she was recruited, and it wasn’t that long ago that Oregon State was in the Final Four, so I think they have our attention,” Bluder said. “It will be another good test for us and that’s what we hope to see.”

The games will also help Iowa prepare for their next two home games, both against top-ranked opponents.

North Carolina, ranked 13th this week, visits Iowa on December 1st and fifth-ranked Iowa state comes to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on December 7th.

But first, the focus is on Oregon State. If the Beavers are looking to limit touches for Czinano inside, like most Hawkeye opponents have done so far this season, Iowa must be ready to counter it.

“I really think the best thing we can do is move the ball a lot, keep moving it and get some open shots with our movement,” said Iowa guard Molly Davis. “This will be big for us.”