In a season full of the unexpected, the buildup to Iowa’s game against Evansville might’ve been the strangest yet. At the beginning of this week, Iowa wasn’t even scheduled to play the Aces. Instead, Iowa was supposed to play a conference game against Illinois. But Covid postponed that game, and Evansville stepped up to play so that Iowa could get a game in. It was the second game Evansville would play in less than 24 hours (they lost to Drake, 97-54, on Saturday).
Unfortunately, the substitute opponent isn’t where the strangeness ended. Both Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock (Iowa’s second and third best players) were out of this game because they recently had Covid. Iowa got a game in, but without two important starters and had just nine players available.
The first quarter started off decently well. Caitlin Clark attacked the basket early and often, and led all players with 14 points in the quarter. But her shooting struggles from three continued, going just 1/3. And as you’d expect, the offense wasn’t as crisp as it likely would’ve been with all the starters in. All told, Iowa led 26-15 after the first quarter.
The second quarter started really well for Iowa, and they quickly jumped out to a 39-17 lead. The lead was still 21 on an AJ Ediger made basket with 4:24 to play in the quarter. But that was the last basket Iowa scored in the half, as Evansville went on a 10-0 run thanks to Iowa’s cold offense. The Hawks still led 41-30 at the half, but that was just half of what the lead had been just a few minutes earlier.
In the third quarter, Iowa made sure there wouldn’t be an IUPUI repeat. The Hawks scored early and often on their way to a dominant third quarter. By the end, Iowa led 73-43 and the game was out of reach. Iowa cruised in the fourth quarter, and won the game 93-56.
Clark led Iowa with 44 points and 8 assists. Addison O’Grady had a career-high 14 points and 12 rebounds. Gabbie Marshall was the last Hawkeye in double-figures with 13. A box score for the game is here.
Clark Hits 1,000 Points and an Arena Record
What an amazing accomplishment for an amazing talent pic.twitter.com/zfayrcZx6o— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) January 2, 2022
Scoring has been a relative struggle for Caitlin Clark so far this year, because her long shots just aren’t falling like they were last season. That didn’t stop her from reaching 1,000 career points faster than anyone else in conference history, though.
With Warnock and Czinano out, Clark had a chance to be an even bigger part of the offense than she normally is, and took advantage with the best scoring game of her career. She hit a couple threes, got her mid-range game going, and took the ball to the basket frequently. That all resulted in 44 points, a new career high and new record for a women's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Maybe more importantly, Clark seemed to regain some of the swagger we saw most of last year. We haven’t seen that as much this year with Iowa’s struggles. Hopefully we see it more going forward.
O’Grady Takes Advantage
One silver lining in Warnock and Czinano being out is that it freed up time for freshman Addison O’Grady to get big minutes. O’Grady has shown flashes on both ends of the court at times this year, but hasn’t played enough to truly evaluate where her game stands.
Today, she played 24 minutes and turned that time into a double-double. Evansville is far from the best opponent Iowa will play this year, but it was still good to see O’Grady dominate an opponent.
O’Grady’s post offense is far from a finished product at this point, but she’s already a far better rebounder than Czinano, and she impacts the game defensively in ways that Czinano just can’t. If her post game develops like Czinano’s did, she will be next in the line of All-Conference or better posts at Iowa.
Dr. Christine Grant
Earlier this week, we learned that former Iowa Athletic Director Dr. Christine Grant passed away. Dr. Grant became Iowa’s first women’s Athletic Director in 1973 and held the position until 2000. In that role, she had an immeasurable impact on Iowa Athletics.
Grant also made a significant impact nationally in the struggle for gender equity in athletics and in the implementation of Title IX. More about Dr. Grant’s impact is here.
Iowa’s next game is scheduled to be at home against Northwestern on Thursday, January 6th at 7 PM CT. The game is scheduled to be televised on Big Ten Network.
Unfortunately, like many other Big Ten teams, Northwestern is experiencing Covid issues and has had to postpone its last few games. We’ll see if this one actually gets played.