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Utah women to face better Hawkeyes

2nd-round game won't be replay of November rout

Four months ago Monday, the Utah women's basketball team cruised to a 66-42 victory over Iowa on the Hawkeyes' homecourt in Iowa City.

That was then.

Monday night, the Utes and Hawkeyes meet at the Huntsman Center in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament and will compete for the right to move on to the Midwest Regional and the NCAA women's Sweet 16 in Denver. The game will tip off at 9:30 and be televised on ESPN2.

If you listen to the coaches and players from both teams, this game should be nothing like the first one. Everyone expects a tight, hard-fought game you'd expect between two teams seeded 4th and 5th in the Midwest Region.

"We're a totally different team than the one that played Utah earlier," said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. "Quite honestly, that team didn't know what it was doing."

"It was really a humiliating loss," added Iowa guard Cara Consuegra. "They beat us in every facet of the game. We're a lot better team than at that time."

The Utes aren't going to get lulled into thinking they'll win by 24 this time again. They know Iowa has come a long way in winning 13 of its past 14 games, including the Big Ten tournament championship and Saturday night's 89-82 comeback win over Oregon in overtime.

"That 20-point win against Iowa doesn't mean anything," said Utah coach Elaine Elliott. "They are more comfortable now than earlier in the season and being more comfortable makes you better. They have a system, and their execution and pace is better."

So what about the Utes? Aren't they a better team than back in November?

"We're both better," said Utah forward Amy Ewert, who had a monster game Saturday against Fairfield with 15 points, seven assists, five steals and three rebounds. "I don't think November is any indication of how this game will be. We can't expect anything other than a hard-fought battle."

Iowa's Bluder is hoping the Utes aren't much better, or it could be a long night for her squad.

"They were really in midseason form (in the earlier game)," said Bluder. "I don't know how you can get a whole lot better. They play with a passion and hunger a lot of teams don't have."

Both teams are well-balanced, with the Hawkeyes' strength coming at their guard line and Utah's strength being more inside.

Iowa's 5-foot-8-inch guards, Lindsey Meder and Consuegra, average 16.8 and 11.3 points per game, respectively. But senior center Randi Peterson is a force inside, averaging 12.9 points and 8.9 rebounds and Bluder says, "anybody who doesn't respect Randi's game is foolish."

The Utes are led by their frontline of center Lauren Beckman (12.4 ppg), Kristina Andersen (10.2 ppg) and Amy Ewert (9.4 ppg). Andersen led the Utes in Saturday's win over Fairfield with 23 points on 10 of 12 field-goal shooting.

Elliott said the Utes' defensive whiz, Ewert, will get the assignment to watch one of the Hawkeyes' guards but didn't say which one.

"They have a guardline that's as good as it gets," she said. "That guardline is their reputation."

Iowa's other starters will be forwards Jennie Lillis (10.8 ppg) and Leah Magner (8.2 ppg), with Mary Berdo (8.0 ppg) and Beatrice Bullock (3.1 ppg) the top reserves.

Utah's starting guards will be Lindsay Herbert (7.8 ppg) and freshman Kelsey Stireman (5.2 ppg) with Lori Red-Castagnetto (6.9 ppg) and Erin Gibbons (4.0 ppg) providing spark off the bench.

The winner of Monday night's game will likely face No. 2-ranked Notre Dame Saturday night at Denver's Pepsi Center in the Midwest Regional. The Irish, who defeated Alcorn State 98-49 Saturday, take on Michigan Monday night.