‘That’s what makes it so fun’: Hawkeyes ready to play free, with joy despite pressure

We heard it all of last year and last year’s tournament: Pressure is a privilege. Lisa Bluder has preached to her Hawkeyes that being in the center of the spotlight is exactly what they want.

So rather than feel tense or nervous, this team chooses to be joyful and relaxed.

Sure, the tournament will have added pressure. But pressure is exactly what got Iowa women’s basketball to the national championship last season.

Anybody and everybody’s best shot? Bring it on.

That's what makes it so fun': Hawkeyes ready to play free, with joy despite pressure

“I think that’s really important,” Caitlin Clark said of playing with joy.

“I think that’s when we’re playing our best basketball and obviously there’s going to be added pressure onto us this weekend.

That’s just how this is, it’s how this tournament goes and that’s what makes it so fun.”

“We’re in the moment — we’re not too high or too low,” associate head coach Jan Jensen said.

“I think we’re just really excited to finally play again. It’s been a long time since that Big Ten championship win.”

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“I don’t think anything’s changed since the beginning of the season for us,” Kate Martin said.

“It feels the exact same — we’ve been dealing with that the entire season.

I think everybody we play is going to give us their best shot and that’s exactly what we want. We wouldn’t want anybody not to give us their best shot.”

“I would look around and just be like, ‘Wow, this is what we play in front of every single night,’” Gabbie Marshall said of playing at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

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“It could be some other team’s biggest game of the year, biggest crowd they’ll ever have is when they come in here. Just knowing that that’s a regular thing for us is crazy.”

“I feel like every game we’ve played in this year has had an NCAA atmosphere,” head coach Lisa Bluder said.

“This is no different than what we’ve been experiencing all year long, we’re going to have a sold out crowd.

A great Hawkeye contingency is going to be here tomorrow and I think our players are ready for it.”

The Hawkeyes have only lost one game at home all season.

If they can take care of 16-seeded Holy Cross, they’ll play the winner of Princeton and West Virginia in a place they’re really, really tough to beat.

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