In the last week and a half, the Iowa women’s basketball team has finally seemed to right the ship. Going into its game at Nebraska on January 9, the Hawks were 7-4. They were growing precariously close to the bubble conversation in NCAA Tournament projections, and talks of competing for a Big Ten title seemed a distant memory.
In the last week and a half, though, the Hawks have defeated a good Nebraska team twice, and also won on the road at a better-than-expected Purdue team. Even better, Iowa won each of those games in a different way.
On the road against Nebraska, Iowa shot the lights out from three and won a fast-paced shootout. Against Purdue, they didn’t make a single three, but instead dominated the paint. And against Nebraska at home they overcame a 16-point first quarter deficit to win by 10.
But to truly show that the season has turned around, the Hawkeyes have to keep beating the teams they're favored against. And that journey started tonight against Minnesota. The Gophers are just 9-9 on the season, and though they have some offensive firepower, this was a game on paper that the Hawks should win. A loss would be another blemish on the team’s NCAA Tournament resume.
Iowa jumped out to a 13-2 first quarter lead thanks to solid offense and a cold start from Minnesota. The quarter continued to go well for a while, with Iowa’s lead ballooning to 14. But in the last few minutes, Iowa missed a number of shots around the basket, and Minnesota started to claw back. A three-pointer at the buzzer brought the Gophers to within 7 points at 20-13.
The beginning of the second quarter started slowly for Iowa, as the Hawks continued to miss shots and turn the ball over. But then Caitlin Clark and the offense got going again. Clark hit a couple threes, a jumper, and continued to attack the basket. Behind her efforts, Iowa quickly grew its lead to the largest of the day at 41-25. The Gophers battled back a bit at the end of the quarter, but two late Clark free throws gave Iowa a 47-34 halftime lead. Clark had 15 points in the quarter and 21 in the half.
The third quarter went about as well as it possibly could have for Iowa. At one point the Hawks went on a 21-2 run over the course of four minutes. Iowa also won the quarter apart from that run, outscored the Gophers 37-12 in the quarter and led 84-46 heading to the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Iowa’s offensive dominance moved over to the defensive side of the ball. The Hawks surrendered just three points to the Gophers in the quarter, and easily wrapped up a 105-49 victory.
Clark led Iowa with 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. It was her second consecutive 30-point triple-double, and the fifth game in the last six in which she had at least 30 points and 8 assists. She also broke the record for most triple-doubles in a season for a Big Ten player, and she still has a big chunk of the season left to go. After a slow start to the year, she’s somehow gotten even better than she was last year. Now she’s one of the most dominant players in college basketball in decades.
Monika Czinano had 23 points and 7 rebounds in her return to her home state. She was also great from the line again, going 9/10. Gabbie Marshall was the last Hawkeye in double-figures with 16 points and 4 steals. It was good to see her have a really good shooting night, as she went 3/4 from three. A box score for the game is here.
Caitlin Clark is a confidence player. When her confidence is high, she’s nearly unstoppable. When it’s low, her game is less consistent. Early in the year, when Iowa’s schedule was getting interrupted with Covid, Clark lost some of her confidence, and her play suffered. Since the Evansville game, though, she has gotten her confidence back, and has gone on an incredible run in her last few games, culminating in two straight 30-point triple-doubles. And she’s done all that while largely not shooting well from three.
But tonight, Clark did shoot well from three. She shot 4/6 from three, and she even mentioned in the post-game interview that seeing her shot go down helped build her confidence. If Clark’s shot starts falling more, then watch out. There’s no real ceiling to how well she can do or how far she can take Iowa.
Caitlin Clark just recorded the first EVER 35 point, 13 rebound, 11 assist game in Division I history in an @IowaWBB win over Minnesotahttps://t.co/U8RnMPatxQ@MarchMadnessWBB @B1Gwbball pic.twitter.com/rt1X0jw3uT— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) January 21, 2022
Back-to-back 30-point triple-doubles in NBA, WNBA & Division I men's & women's college basketball, since 2000:— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) January 21, 2022
Caitlin Clark, @IowaWBB
This is one of the most dominant performances that I can remember. Had Iowa hit on a couple more shots around the basket in the first half, they could’ve easily scored 110+ points. And to give up less than 50 against a Power 5 opponent is almost unimaginable after Iowa’s defensive play last season.
Minnesota might not be a great team, but they also won’t finish at the bottom of the conference. Today, Iowa just absolutely destroyed them.
Iowa’s next game is still in question. The Hawkeyes were scheduled to play Indiana on Sunday, but the game was postponed due to Covid issues in the Indiana program. Coach Bluder has talked about trying to find a new opponent for Saturday or Sunday, but thus far has not announced anything.
If no new opponent is found, Iowa will return to action on Tuesday, January 25 at 6 PM CT on the road at Penn State. That is a makeup game for one that was postponed earlier in the year due to Covid issues in the Penn State program. The game will be streamed on BTN Plus.