Georgia Tech-Iowa Preview
March 20, 2009
(AP) - A lot of Georgia Tech's success could be attributed to the fact it was second in the nation this season in forcing turnovers. Iowa is aware just how much trouble that ability can present.
Though they have the benefit of playing at home, the Hawkeyes were blown out last season when the Yellow Jackets visited Iowa City and the teams will meet there again Sunday to open the NCAA tournament.
Iowa (21-10) is the eighth seed in the Oklahoma City Regional and Georgia Tech (21-9) is seeded ninth, with the winner to face top seed Oklahoma in the second round at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"It's going to be so awesome having our fans and family members here," Iowa leading scorer Kristi Smith told the school's official Web site. "We can do our routines and sleep in our own beds."
Only four visiting teams have won in Iowa City over the past two seasons - the Hawkeyes were 13-1 at home this season - but one of them was the Yellow Jackets. As part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Georgia Tech won 76-57 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Nov. 28, 2007, as Iowa committed 26 turnovers.
"We're very familiar with this team because we played Iowa one year ago," Yellow Jackets coach MaChelle Joseph said. "Their five starters are basically the same with the exception of one."
Joseph's team forced 25.0 turnovers per game this season to rank second nationally behind Pepperdine (25.5). Georgia Tech is 18-4 when forcing more than 20 turnovers, 3-5 when it doesn't.
Iowa is 14-1 when committing 15 turnovers or fewer.
"There's no doubt that their full-court press is something that they really live and die off of," said coach Lisa Blunder, whose Hawkeyes averaged just 9.3 turnovers in their last four games. "Attacking that press is going to be very, very crucial to our success."
Iowa was one of the nation's hotter teams heading into the postseason, riding a six-game win streak and winning 12 of its last 14 regular-season games. But after opening the Big Ten tournament with a win over Minnesota, the Hawkeyes lost 72-56 to Ohio State - the conference's regular season and eventual tournament champion - in the semifinals.
Iowa is opening the NCAA tournament as a host team for the first time since 1998 when it won in the opening round but lost in the second.
Smith is a senior who has never won an NCAA tournament game, as Iowa lost in the first round in 2006 and 2008 and did not receive a tournament bid in 2007. Averaging 13.4 points and shooting 42.0 percent (63-of-150) from 3-point range, Smith now looks to lead the Hawkeyes to their first tournament victory since 2002.
Sophomore Kachine Alexander adds 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. She recorded a double-double in three of her final five regular-season games.
This is Georgia Tech's third straight NCAA tournament appearance but is hoping to avoid a second consecutive first-round loss in Iowa. The Yellow Jackets lost at Iowa State last season after advancing to the second round in 2007.
They're coming off a disappointing ACC tournament, having been upset 81-69 by Clemson in first round after closing the regular season with three straight wins.
Georgia Tech has the top-scoring defense in the ACC, holding opponents to 56.8 points per game. However, the Yellow Jackets have given up an average of 76.8 in the last five games.
Alex Montgomery leads the team with 13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game, while Jacqua Williams tops the conference with 3.6 steals per game. The senior guard also contributes 11.7 points and 3.2 assists per game.
Georgia Tech's big concern going into the tournament is the health of Montgomery, who was injured in the Yellow Jackets' ACC tournament game and had to be carried off the floor with a knee injury.