by Josh Liebeskind, SWX Content Coordinator - email
Taelor Karr and Gonzaga will have a tough test in Iowa State on Saturday.
SPOKANE, Wash. -
If you look at the matchup in the simplest of forms, it is Gonzaga vs. Iowa State at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
On Saturday at 1:15 PT, that game will tip in first-round NCAA women's tournament action. It's a home game for the 12th-seeded Bulldogs, while the 5th-seeded Cyclones had to travel halfway across the country.
"I feel like it's an honor to be able to play in front of people that believe in us. We want to give them a good show, make sure we're playing our game, playing with passion, playing hard, give them something to be excited about."
It's an undeniable advantage for Gonzaga, but if you delve further into the matchup, Iowa State is the one that begins to pose problems.
The Cyclones' frontcourt is a talented trio of Anna Prins (6-foot-7), Chelsea Poppens (6-foot-2) and Hallie Christofferson (6-foot-3). Gonzaga will be forced to match one of its three starting guards on one of the aforementioned Iowa State forwards, which will give the Cyclones a significant height advantage.
Gonzaga forwards Sunny Greinacher (6-foot-4) and Shelby Cheslek (6-foot-5) will have a challenge on their hands, especially with Prins. Both are underclassmen, though, and their experience does not match the trio of upperclassmen Iowa State has in its frontcourt.
That being said, there have been games earlier this season that have helped prepare Gonzaga and its young frontcourt. Haiden Palmer said the team can draw from a loss to Ohio State in December, as well as three matchups against BYU's Jennifer Hamson.
"It's hard to compare them as a team, but the good thing is we played BYU in our conference, who has a really tall girl, [6-foot-7] I think," Greinacher said. " We're used to play that tall person inside, so I think that will help us out."
"From those people that have watched us day one, we were pretty ugly in November and December, our inside kids have really improved," head coach Kelly Graves said. " That's where we've made our biggest stride. I think we'll be able to handle that a little bit better this time around because we are more experienced."
The dangerous aspect of the Iowa State offense is that the guard play is arguably just as strong as the post play. Sophomore Nikki Moody is third in the nation with 7.3 assists per game and fellow sophomore Brynn Williamson was second in the Big 12 from beyond the arc, at 36.2 percent.
With it so easy to focus a lot of attention on the frontcourt, it can be easy to overlook the backcourt.
"They're just as good, they've got a lot of size," said senior Taelor Karr on Iowa State's guards. "It's going to be tough for us to match up because our guards, we're kind of short. They're quick, they're good shooters, they like to drive -- they can do it all. It's not like you can just guard for the drive or guard for the shot, so we're going to have to be tough on defense, stay physical, stay mentally focused."
Time will tell if the Bulldogs can stay physically and mentally tough enough to top the Cyclones and move on in the tournament. But hey, who knows what could happen?
"Playing in front of the home crowd here is great," Karr said. "My senior year, last time, last go around, I want to play my best, see what happens. "
Monday, May 13 2013 1:15 AM EDT2013-05-13 05:15:33 GMT
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