IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)Georgia coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson got a phone call from her panicked sister.
“She said, ‘I’m not going to get tickets, it’s sold out,’” Abrahamson-Henderson said Thursday about the NCAA Tournament games at Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I’m like, ‘Are you OK? Your sister is the head coach at Georgia. You’ll be getting tickets. You’ll be fine.’”
The Seattle Regional 4 games on Friday – featuring second-seed Iowa against No. 15 seed Southeastern Louisiana and seventh-seed Florida State vs. No. 10 seed Georgia – were gone within a hour after going on sale Monday morning.
It’s the star power of the Hawkeyes, who have played in front of sold-out crowds at home and large road crowds drawn by an offense that averages a nation-best 87.5 points, led by guard Caitlin Clark.
“I think maybe we’ve gotten kind of used to our fans being as incredible as they are,” said Clark, an Associated Press first-team All-American who is third in the nation in scoring at 27 points per game. “I think it just shows the excitement in our community about women’s basketball and that’s the excitement that it could be like all around the country.”
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said that she’s been surprised by Clark’s reception as they traveled this season.
“What has been surprising to me is when we go on the road and when I see, in Maryland, girls with signs, ‘I’m from Massachusetts and I came here to see you play. “We were at Nebraska and there’s a sign, ‘I’m your biggest fan in North Dakota.’
“People are traveling miles to see this team and to see Caitlin play.”
A total of 14,382 tickets were sold for the weekend, matching last year’s total for the two NCAA sessions in Iowa City – the highest attendance for the tournament outside of the Final Four.
The Hawkeyes (26-6) want to avoid what happened last season, when they were eliminated in the second round by 10th seed Creighton.
“I feel like that’s kind of been the story for us all year long – people want to beat the Iowa Hawkeyes,” Clark said. “They’re going to come in and give you your best game every single time. We really understand that we’ve experienced that all year, so it shouldn’t be anything that we’re afraid of by any means.”
Southeastern Louisiana (21-9) is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Southland Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
“We’ve played in big environments,” coach Ayla Guzzardo said. “Now, this is going to be a bigger environment, a way bigger stage. Playing Caitlin Clark is going to be fun for them. They’re not necessarily star-struck.”
Friday’s first game features a Florida State team that will be playing with just eight players for the rest of the tournament.
The Seminoles (23-9), who had just 10 players on the roster all season, will be without freshman guard Ta’Niya Latson and sophomore guard O’Mariah Gordon, who are out with season-ending injuries.
Latson was an honorable-mention AP All-American along with ACC Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection. She averaged 21.3 points and 4.5 rebounds this season.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, we’ve been in this situation before throughout the season,” Florida State coach Brooke Wyckoff said. “We’ve been down to eight players at certain times. So that’s one of the things that I love about our group, is that we only have 10, but I’ve always felt we’re deep.
Latson missed the Seminoles’ loss to Wake Forest in the ACC tournament because of an undisclosed injury. Gordon, who played in 30 games and started twice this season, averaged 6.9 points and 2.0 rebounds.
“Ta’Niya is a talented scorer and all-around player, but stylistically in our approach to the game – which is to get out and run, attack the basket, find open shooters – that won’t change in terms of what we do,” Wyckoff said.
Georgia (21-11) has won six of its last eight games, with its only losses coming to ranked teams South Carolina and LSU.
The Bulldogs are looking forward to the atmosphere of the sellout crowd.
“When the lights come up, I believe that’s when the best players come out,” forward Javyn Nicholson said. “That’s when the stars come out, and I think we’re going to be out.”
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