Louisville vs Iowa Elite Eight game: Breaking down 2023 NCAA Tournament showdown in Seattle
SEATTLE — Louisville’s women’s basketball is one win away from a second straight Final Four appearance.
Standing in the Cardinals’ way of getting to Dallas: Caitlin Clark and the No. 2-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes.
The two teams are set to face off in the Elite Eight at 9 p.m. EST Sunday at Climate Pledge Arena. The No. 5 seeded Cardinals (26-11), in their fifth straight Elite Eight and eighth overall, have peaked at the right time after an up-and-down season. They defeated eighth-seeded Ole Miss 72-62 in Friday's Sweet 16. Iowa (29-6) advanced thanks to a 48-point second-half burst to beat No. 6 Colorado 87-77.
The reward for winning Sunday? A likely Final Four meeting with undefeated and overwhelming tournament favorite South Carolina on Friday.
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Here are three things to know about Cardinals-Hawkeyes:
Slowing Iowa's Caitlin Clark
Clark, the nation's No. 4 overall prospect in 2020 out of Dowling Catholic (Iowa) High School, is one of the country's brightest stars. The Naismith Trophy finalist ranks third in the nation with 26.9 points per game and leads the country with 8.5 assists per game.
The Iowa junior guard makes deep 3-pointers and buzzer-beaters that go viral and is lethal passing the ball. Just watch her clinic against Ohio State to win the Big Ten Tournament championship three weeks ago: Clark record 30 points, 10 rebounds and 17 assists, becoming the first women’s Division I player to record three career 30-point triple-doubles.
She scored 31 points on 11 of 22 shooting (4 of 9 from 3), dished out eight assists and grabbed three rebounds against Colorado.
Clark will likely draw Mykasa Robinson, Louisville’s best defender. Robinson cannot afford to give her an inch of room to shoot as soon as the ball reaches half court, where Clark is known to make shots from the logo. And expect U of L head coach Jeff Walz to throw different defenders and looks at Clark to mix things up.
"Caitlin Clark is an amazing player," Cardinals guard Merissah Russell said. "We're gonna have our work cut out for us for sure, but we're gonna play Louisville basketball. We're gonna play tough and watch our clips from this game and see what we can work on and do better, then go watch a ton of the Iowa (film) and see what we can do to attack Caitlin in different ways."
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Louisville’s X-factor? Morgan Jones
Morgan Jones’ season at Louisville has been inconsistent. The former Florida State Seminole started the first 23 games of the season but has come off the bench since Jan. 29 against Syracuse. Her scoring numbers have dipped from 11 points per game as a starter to 5.6 in 14 games as a reserve.
But the graduate senior has looked good in the last two games, recording 10 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes against Texas in the round of 32 with and 11 points and seven boards in 26 minutes against Ole Miss.
A surging Jones can be Louisville's X-factor against Iowa.
Her strength is drawing fouls while driving to the basket and hitting midrange jumpers. She’s got the best field-goal percentage (51% on 132-of-259 shooting) on the team among those who have attempted 200 or more shots.
Iowa will try to limit Louisville star Hailey Van Lith (21 points Friday) and chase fifth-year senior guard Chrislyn Carr off the 3-point line while Olivia Cochran will likely draw the attention of Hawkeyes center Monika Czinano. If Jones can knock down some shots and play physical inside, it'll stretch an Iowa defense ranked 304th in the nation in scoring defense (70.4 points per game) even further.
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How Louisville and Iowa fared against common opponents
The Cardinals and Hawkeyes both played Drake, Belmont, N.C. State and Ohio State this season. U of L went 2-2 against those teams while Iowa went 4-1.
U of L lost to OSU and N.C. State, both at home, with its worst loss coming at the hands of the Buckeyes 96-77 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In both losses, Louisville came out strong and held the lead at halftime but could not hold on. Over the last few weeks, though, the Cardinals have been playing more complete games and have outscored their postseason opponents 232-187 in the second half.
Iowa has been a team that gets out to a fast start, outscoring its opponents by an average of 10.5 points in the first half. The Hawkeyes held OSU to a combined 58 first-half points in two games.
Reach Louisville football, women's basketball and baseball beat writer Alexis Cubit at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @Alexis_Cubit.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: March Madness 2023: Louisville vs Iowa in NCAA Tournament Elite Eight