In Iowa’s first game against Nebraska, the game was close for three plus quarters. Then in the fourth quarter, Iowa extended its lead and took control of the game. Nebraska did make a late run, but Caitlin Clark closed things out, and Iowa held onto the victory. Tonight’s game was fairly similar.
Iowa jumped out to a fast start on both ends of the court. Defensively, Iowa started with five consecutive stops, while the offense was hitting threes and getting to the basket. But midway through the quarter, Iowa switched to a 2-3 zone on defense, and Nebraska started hitting open jumper after open jumper. Iowa’s offense also started turning it over, and that helped Nebraska take a narrow 20-18 lead into the second quarter.
Iowa’s defense continued to struggle early in the second quarter, but started playing tougher and getting stops from the middle of the quarter on. The Hawks were forcing Nebraska into tough jump shots, but the Huskers were making their fair share of them. Offensively, Iowa scored 16 points in the first five and a half minutes of the quarter, but then didn’t score a single point in the final four plus minutes. Nebraska took a 37-34 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was back and forth. Both teams shot well north of 50% in the quarter, often either scoring or turning the ball over in a possession. Because both teams shot so well, neither could go on much of a run, and the game stayed close throughout. A late Nebraska basket gave the Huskers a 60-58 lead heading to the fourth.
In the fourth and final quarter, Clark decided to take over. The freshman scored 19 points in the quarter, including 12 points in the first few minutes. Nebraska, meanwhile, finally started to miss some of the difficult jumpers they had been making all game. As a result, Iowa got the lead back and built that lead up to eight with just under six minutes to play. Nebraska continued to fight, but couldn’t pull the game closer than five points. Iowa ultimately won 83-75.
Clark led Iowa with 35 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. She was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line, with all of those coming in the 4th quarter. Gabbie Marshall had 14 points, and shot 4/5 from three-point range. McKenna Warnock was the final Hawkeye in double figures with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Monika Czinano had a second straight rough game, scoring just 6 points on 3-9 shooting. A box score for the game is here.
Clark: 34 min—11.5 pts
Marshall: 36 min—16.5 pts
Martin: 33 min—15 pts
Warnock: 34 min—8 pts
Czinano: 26 min—6 pts
Meyer: 10 min—4.5 pts
Taiwo: 13 min—3.5 pts
Goodman: 13 min— 10 pts
Nebraska shots 49% for the game, but Iowa played fairly well defensively other than surrendering too many open threes. The last time Iowa played Nebraska, the Huskers had a lot of success driving and scoring in the paint. That was a huge issue against Indiana this week too. But today, Nebraska did very little in the paint. The Huskers took a ton of tough jumpers and hit more of them than you would expect.
Today’s game for Iowa’s 5s shows why points against isn’t a be-all, end-all stat. Just looking at the numbers, it looks like Czinano had a great defensive game, while Goodman did relatively poorly.
But the numbers don’t reflect each player’s game defensively today. Goodman played good defense most of the time she was in. She often forced Nebraska’s posts away from the area right around the basket, and guarded them close when they were further away. They just happened to shoot, and make, several tough jumpers over her even with that good defense.
Czinano, meanwhile, faced very few shots when she was in. I don’t really think that was a reflection of her playing great defense. Nebraska’s posts just didn’t shoot against her much.
One trend that I have seen while tracking points against is that Warnock often surrenders fewer points relative to the rest of Iowa’s starters. Part of that is her effort. She guards her matches closely in and around the paint, and also does a decent job on the perimeter. Another part is the position she guards. The Big Ten has a number of good scoring 5s right now. The league also has a number of very good guards and wings. There aren’t as many great scoring 4s.
Iowa finishes the regular season 15-8 overall, and 11-8 in the Big Ten. 11-8 was good for 6th in the conference, though with the caveat that Michigan and Rutgers (two teams that Iowa beat, but that finished ahead of the Hawkeyes in the conference standings) played just 13 conference games, and might have finished below Iowa had they played more.
Iowa’s next game is Wednesday, March 10th at approximately 8 PM Central against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 2 and follows the game that will start at 5:30 PM Central. Purdue finished the season 7-15 overall, and 4-14 in the Big Ten. Iowa defeated Purdue 87-81 back in mid-January in the only meeting between the teams, though Iowa has played better since that game. If Iowa wins, they will play Rutgers on Thursday at approximately 8 PM Central, also on Fox Sports 2.