No shooting touch from Caitlin Clark? No McKenna Warnock? No problem for Iowa women's basketball. The Hawkeyes hosted Western Illinois in their final non-conference game of the season and after a slow start, they rolled to an easy 92-65 victory behind a very balanced scoring attack (six players in double figures) and a freaking triple-double from Caitlin Clark, another outing that added to her fast-growing legacy.
This was Iowa's first game in 10 days, since a narrow loss to Michigan State back on December 12 and they showed some rust. (Iowa was scheduled to play at Ohio State on December 19, but COVID concerns with the Buckeyes scuttled that game for now.) This game started with all the energy you'd expect from a 1 PM tip-off on a Tuesday afternoon and between that lack of energy and Iowa's lengthy layoff from competition, it was largely unsurprising that they got off to a very sluggish start.
The first quarter was very back-and-forth and Iowa had just a narrow 18-16 lead after one. The second quarter didn't start much better, but eventually Iowa started getting a few stops on the defensive end and (more importantly) started making more shots on offense, too. That narrow lead ballooned to a 12-point lead at halftime, 41-29. Iowa picked up where they left off out of halftime and quickly raced out to a 20-point lead and the game got no closer than that the rest of the way.
The story of the game ended up being -- who else? -- Caitlin Clark... but this time it was not because of her prodigious scoring ability. Clark endured the worst shooting game of her young college career, finishing just 3/15 from the floor (1/6 from deep). Threes weren't falling, floaters weren't falling, layups weren't falling -- nothing was working for Clark today from a shooting perspective. But she is a superstar and superstars can usually impact games even when one part of their game isn't clicking and that proved true for Clark today. She dominated the glass, grabbing a game-high 13 boards, all on the defensive end. Her pinpoint passing ability helped her teammates score plenty of points as well and ended with her tallying 10 assists.
All told, she finished the game with 13 points (thanks to 6/7 shooting at the charity stripe), 13 rebounds, and 10 assists, as well as three steals and a block. Even when certain things aren't working (like her shooting today), she's still able to have a massive positive impact on the game for Iowa. What an absolutely unreal talent to have in an Iowa uniform; what a gift to be able to watch her play.
This was (obviously) the first triple-double of Clark's Iowa career, and the first for any Iowa player since Sam Logic had a triple-double in 2015. It was also the 10th all-time triple double for the Iowa women's program. I'm going to go out on a pretty sturdy limb and suggest that Clark will add more than a few to that number by the time her Iowa career is done.
While Clark's triple-double ended up being the big takeaway from this game, one of the other key takeaways -- and something that might be more encouraging in the long run -- was the impressively balanced scoring Iowa had today. Six different players finished in double figures today, including three players off the bench. Monika Czinano led the team with 19 points (on 7/11 shooting) and Clark had 13 for Iowa's starters. Gabbie Marshall was the third Iowa starter to score in double figures, with 11 points on 4/11 shooting. She was also incredibly active on the defensive end of the court and finished with six (!) steals.
As noted, Iowa's bench was incredibly productive today as well, with a trio of reserves all topping double figures in scoring too, led by Megan Meyer's 13. Meyer was 4/8 from the floor (2/5 from 3-point range) and also had four assists in her 20+ minutes on the court. She was a very nice spark for Iowa's back court. Logan Cook also gave Iowa some terrific minutes, posting 12 points (on perfect 5/5 shooting) and grabbing nine rebounds in her 21 minutes on the floor. Finally, Sharon Goodman also topped double figures; Iowa's backup big finished with 12 points (on 4/9 shooting) and grabbed nine rebounds, too. Iowa's bench was excellent today and their productivity was more than enough to overcome a lousy shooting day for Clark, quiet performances from Kate Martin (6 points, 4 rebounds) and Alexis Sevillian (4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist), and the absence of McKenna Warnock, who missed the game with a foot injury. She was on the bench with her foot in a boot, but it's not yet clear how long she'll be out of action.
Iowa benefited from playing a Western Illinois team that is not very good (to put mildly), but it was still very encouraging to see the bench step up like it did and to win so comfortably when your best player (Clark) is having an off night shooting and one of your top three players (Warnock) isn't able to play at all. If Iowa can get a couple bench players to produce each game, that will make things a lot easier on the starters -- and should put the team in a position to win on a regular basis.
NEXT: Iowa is off until December 31, when they're scheduled to host Rutgers in a return to Big Ten competition. That game is scheduled to tip off at 2 PM CT and will be streamed on BTN+.