IOWA CITY, Iowa - Apparently it's going to take more than home court advantage to get the Iowa women an NCAA Tournament win.
The eighth-seeded Hawkeyes dropped their fifth consecutive game in the event on Sunday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. No. 9 Georgia Tech pressured the home team into a 76-62 loss, Iowa's fourth, first-round exit in a row.
Hawkeye Coach Lisa Bluder struggled to deal with the loss as she said goodbye to five seniors at game's end.
"The game didn't go the way we wanted it to, but…" Bluder broke down in tears and turned the questions over to her players on the podium.
Iowa's youngest starters performed better than their older teammates, which was good news for the future but bad news on this night. Sophomore Kachine Alexander notched 17 points, while Kamille Wahlin, a freshman, scored 14.
Wendy Ausdemore (12 points), Kristi Smith (8) and Megan Skouby (4) shot a combined 10 of 24 from the floor. They came into the game averaging a 37.8 PPG and set a record for career points by a Big Ten trio of classmates this year.
"It seemed like when we got it to within one, then we gave up an O board and that just kind of sparked their little run," Ausdemore said. "I'm proud of the way the team=2 0fought. There's just the O boards and they were just more aggressive."
The Yellow Jackets (22-10) played without their leading scorer and rebounder, Alex Montgomery, who stayed back in Atlanta rehabbing a dislocated kneecap. Turned out their pressure defense and ability to dribble penetrate overcame the loss of a top player and having to play in front of an announced crowd of 5,615 mostly rooting against them.
"We're thrilled to death to be sitting up here with a win over great Iowa team," Tech Coach MaChelle Joseph said. "The last couple of weeks have been hard knowing that we were preparing for this game without our leading scorer and rebounder. She's so much more than that to this team. We're just thrilled to have the second-ever NCAA win in the history of our program."
Iowa (21-11) prepared for the visitors' full-court press by playing against seven defenders in practice this week. Sunday's action showed they maybe should have added a few more. The Hawkeyes got through the initial defenders in the backcourt often enough, but hurried up and gave it away too much on the secondary break.
"I think a couple of us really got panicked and didn't really know if we were running one of our plays," Alexander said. "It was a little bit confusing in the half court. We just got a little panicked. Sometimes we just have to calm down, run the play, get it into Kristi or Ka mille's hands and figure it out from there.
"Our point guard has to take the initiative. If coach doesn't call a play, call one for yourself and then we're run it."
The home team's defense also seemed porous, allowing Tech to score 17 lay-ups on 23 attempts. The Jackets led 46-12 on points in the paint, 18-3 in second-chance points and 21-3 on points off of turnovers.
Tech also enjoyed a 43-30 advantage on the boards, including 19-7 on the offensive glass.
"To their credit, they're good crashers," Smith said. "They're a great rebounding team and we didn't do a very good job of boxing out, and they took advantage of it."
The Jackets were clinging to a 36-35 lead early in the second half before they turned on the jets. A 14-3 run gave them control of the game and Iowa couldn't get its deficit under 10 points the rest of the way.
"We knew what we were up against," said Tech guard Jacqua Williams, who led all scorers with 23 points. "We went into the ACC Tournament not knowing what was at stake. We came in here knowing we couldn't let up."
Tech will meet top-seeded Oklahoma at 8:30 pm here on Tuesday. The Sooners (29-4) shook off some early-game rust to roll past Prairie View A&M, 76-47, in Sunday's early game. The Hawkeyes hold a 2-1 series advantage. They've met twice in the last five years with each team winning once.
Tech enjoyed a 36-31 halftime advantage. The opening 20 minutes were defined by runs.
Iowa jumped out to an early lead before a 13-0 Jacket spurt put the visitors ahead 21-12 with 10:24 to play in the first half.
The Hawkeyes responded with a 14-6 run to cut Tech's lead to 27-26 with 3:45 remaining before the break. The Jackets regained their composure to take the five-point lead into the locker room.
"I didn't think early in the game, in the first half particularly, the press was hurting us so much as we were really making some unforced errors and making some passing decisions that weren't very good in the quarter court," Bluder said. "
Wahlin netted 10, first-half points. The freshman connected on both of her trey attempts and added two assists and four rebounds by the break. Alexander and Ausdemore each contributed seven points.