Iowa women must contain Baylor's beasts on the boards

Ryan Murken

It's often said that rebounding starts with effort, and Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle doesn't disagree.

For Doolittle and her Iowa teammates, rebounding may start with effort. But it ends with attitude, something the Hawkeyes have discovered over the past few weeks.

"A lot of it is just about your attitude," the 6-foot-4 Doolittle said Monday. "You've got to have the right mindset."

That attitude will need to be as evident as ever at 6:30 p.m. Friday when third-seeded Iowa (26-7) faces Oklahoma City Region No. 2 seed Baylor (32-3) in a Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament matchup inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Led by Doolittle, Iowa had the right attitude in Sunday's second-round win over Miami. She grabbed 11 rebounds as Iowa outrebounded the Hurricanes by nine in the 88-70 triumph.

"I think it was just our attitude," Doolittle said of the rebounding against Miami. "We had the attitude to go get the ball, be assertive, be aggressive."

Baylor ranks fifth in the nation in rebounding margin, outrebounding opponents by an average of 12.1 per game. The Bears' rebounding barrage is spearheaded by the duo of 5-foot-11 sophomore Nina Davis (8.3 rpg) and 6-foot-4 senior center Sune Agbuke (5.8).

"They are an athletic team and a big team, and there are a lot of offensive rebounders on their team," Doolittle said. "I think that will be a focus again to box them out and control the boards."

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Rebounding has proved problematic at times for the Hawkeyes this season.

Iowa has been outrebounded by an average of 4.4 per game, and the Hawkeyes have had a negative rebounding margin in all but one of their losses this season. Yet Iowa has been at its best on the glass over the last few weeks.

"I think that is a focus every single game," Iowa senior guard Melissa Dixon said. "That's an area of improvement we have worked on all season."

The Hawkeyes have outrebounded opponents in two of their past four games and are plus-6 overall in that time frame. They're 8-1 when outrebounding their foes. Iowa had a 44-35 advantage against Miami.

"I thought the Miami game, we were outstanding," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "I thought Beth took it up another notch, especially on the offensive glass."

Iowa had 12 offensive rebounds, its highest total in seven games, against Miami. The result was 12 second-chance points.

"That was really nice to see, because those extra opportunities are incredible for us," Bluder said. "When you score as well as we do and you get those second opportunities to score, usually the second one we are going to make you pay if we don't get the first one."

Iowa is hoping that work pays off on Friday against a Baylor group that has been outrebounded just three times in 35 games. One of those squads was Iowa State, which held a 37-30 edge on the glass is a 76-71 upset win Feb. 28 in Ames.

"Baylor lost to Iowa State, they lost to Oklahoma. So there are some weaknesses there," Bluder said. "We just have to be able to make those show up."

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.


WHO: No. 3 Iowa (26-7) vs. No. 2 Baylor, Oklahoma City

TIME/TV: 6:30 p.m., ESPN2

COMING THURSDAY: Grab a commemorative poster of the Iowa women's NCAA Tournament run from Register graphic artist Mark Marturello.