Thus far this year, there have been two versions of the Iowa women’s basketball team. The bad version gives up points in droves. It doesn’t rotate well on defense. It doesn’t close out to shooters. It gives up way too many open looks around the basket.
The bad version of this team doesn’t let the offense work. It forces quick three-pointers or tries to make passes that just aren’t open.
In most of today’s first half, the bad version of Iowa faced a Minnesota team that was shooting well from the outside. The Gophers used that hot shooting and Iowa’s lackluster defense to jump out to a 27-19 lead.
In the second quarter, things got worse. Minnesota’s lead ballooned to 16, and stayed right around there for most of the quarter. Iowa wasn’t getting good shots, and Minnesota answered the few it did make.
But then, just as things looked truly bleak, the second version of Iowa showed up.
The good version of Iowa lets the offense work. It waits until the post establishes position, then makes a good entry pass. It takes defenders off the dribble, then gets to the basket for a layup or draws a foul. It finds open shooters behind the three-point arc and those shots go down.
The good version of Iowa gives great effort defensively. The players rotate and help each other on defense, then crash the glass when shots go up.
That version of Iowa closed the first half on a 7-1 run. It cut Minnesota’s lead from 16 down to 10 at the half. It showed that it could compete and overcome the big hole the bad version of Iowa dug for itself.
In the second half, the good version of Iowa went on a tear. With five minutes left in the third quarter, a deep Caitlin Clark three leveled the game at 55. A minute and a half later, a Kate Martin run-out layup gave Iowa a 59-58 lead.
Good Iowa kept its foot on the gas. In the remainder of the quarter, it built a 10-point lead, before a late Minnesota three made the score 68-61 heading to the fourth quarter.
Good Iowa came out in the 4th quarter, too, and continued to build upon its lead. That lead grew as high as 16, before Iowa closed out a 92-79 win.
Iowa closed the game on a 61-32 run and scored 54 second half points.
Clark led Iowa with 37 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. She scored 19 of those to help keep Iowa in the game in the first half. She then scored 12 more in the crucial third quarter when Iowa grabbed the lead back, including several deep threes. Monika Czinano was the only other Hawkeye in double-figures with 19 points and 9 rebounds. A box score for the game is here.
Clark As Player of the Year
We interrupt our regular scheduled game content...— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) January 7, 2021
Congratulations, @CaitlinClark22 on being named to the @WoodenAward Top-25 Watchlist!
Details https://t.co/5H4jiYudds | #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/7gAV9KfVmo
There has been a lot of talk in women’s basketball circles about whether Caitlin Clark is the best freshman in the country. There are a lot of talent freshman around the country this year, to be sure, but I think that talk is selling Clark short.
Last year Kathleen Doyle was voted the Big Ten Player of the Year. She was voted a 3rd team All-American by the Associated Press. And as good as Doyle was on both ends of the court, she didn’t have nearly the influence on Iowa’s team last year that Clark has this year.
Several times already Clark has nearly single-handedly kept Iowa in games that bad Iowa was throwing away. Or she has gone on scoring runs that lead Iowa to victory late in the game.
She came into today’s game averaging 26.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game. Those point and rebounding averages will only go up after this game.
It’s time to start campaigning for Clark to be the Big Ten and National Player of the Year. It doesn’t matter that she’s a freshman. She’s been that good.
Megan Meyer also stepped up and played well today. So far this year, her playing time has been fairly sporadic. There have been several games where she played few if any minutes.
When Iowa was at its lowest point today, she hit a big three and played tough defense. Her effort earned her a starting spot for the second half when McKenna Warnock was briefly out with an injury. Ultimately, she ended the game with 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists and looked confident as a ball-handler. Hopefully she can build on this performance and expand her role with the team moving forward.
Iowa returns to action on Saturday January 9 at 6 PM CT on the road at Northwestern. The Wildcats are ranked #22 in the AP Poll, are 5-2 overall, and are 3-2 in the Big Ten. The game will be televised by BTN.