IOWA CITY — A sprained ankle and an elbow in the nose wouldn’t keep Caitlin Clark off the court on Sunday.
Ignoring both, the All-American Guard scored 33 points and led fourth-placed Iowa to a 73-62 women’s basketball victory over Belmont in front of 8,227 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Ice, height and following the advice of the training staff allowed Clark to overcome the ankle injury she sustained in the closing seconds of an 84-83 loss at Kansas State on Thursday.
Her determination helped her move forward after hitting an elbow in the nose while going for a loose ball early Sunday in an impact attempt against a team believed to be preseason favorites in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“There wasn’t a lot of pain so I knew I could walk. I definitely didn’t want to sit out,” Clark said. “I’m feeling really good. Even with your elbow to your nose. I guess all of this is preparing me for Big Ten basketball.”
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In many ways, so did the test provided by Belmont.
The Bruins, who last season beat Tennessee on their home ground in NCAA tournament play, finished sixth-placed Louisville a week ago before falling five points behind.
Against Iowa, Belmont decided to slow the pace and force the Hawkeyes to exercise a little patience on both ends of the court.
“It’s good to get different perspectives from people, different approaches. It’s a way of not letting us score as many goals and getting the ball on the ground,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. “It’s a smart way to play against us. We’re going to go through the film tonight and learn a lot from it. That’s all good.”
The strategy kept the game tight.
The Hawkeyes were 18 points after a quarter and scored the last seven points of the second quarter to open a 32-25 lead at halftime.
Clark scored 15 straight points for Iowa late in the third and early in the fourth quarter as the Hawkeyes extended a lead that grew to 11 points before Belmont recovered and went 60-56 on two Madison Bartley free throws within 5 minutes moved in. 6 seconds left in the game.
The teams traded possessions before Gabbie Marshall knocked down a 3-point basket and Clark hit a jumper as Iowa (4-1) went 65-57 in the last three minutes.
Iowa kept the Bruins (1-3) on 37.1% shooting for the game and an 8-of-29 effort from 3-point range, a defense Bluder liked.
“I thought we took a step forward with our defense,” Bluder said, pleased with how the Hawkeyes held one of the Missouri Valley’s best players, Destinee Wells, on 4-of-17 shots and nine points.
Clark’s scoring streak included back-to-back 3-point baskets after Belmont cut Iowa’s lead to 47-44 with just under two minutes left in the third quarter and a break-away lay-in after a steal that left Iowa 53- 44 with a minute to go in the third quarter.
“I felt like our defense did a good job leading to our offense,” Clark said. “During that stretch we took a miss, made a turnover and did a lot of good things.”
Clark was the only Hawkeye to score in double digits, while Monika Czinano scored seven of her nine points in the first quarter as the Bruins focused on denying many inside glimpses.
“That’s the hard part about guarding us,” Bluder said. “We have a good inside-outside game and if people decide to take one away then we have another direction to go.”
Nikki Baird led three Belmont players by double digits with a 13-point game.