Although Ohio State has spent the last few months showing why they belong among the elite in women’s basketball, it was Lisa Bluder’s veteran squad from Iowa who shone brightest among all viewers on Monday.
The No. 10 Hawkeyes built an early cushion that held up as the offense went cold late in the third quarter, then leaned on the program pillars to bring home the win. Sparked by Caitlin Clark’s eighth career triple-double, Iowa’s end product was an 83-72 win over the No. 2 Buckeyes (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten Conference). That ended Ohio State’s winning streak of 19.
“Hopefully that means we’re one of the top five teams in the country,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said on the post-game radio show. “That’s where this team set its goals.”
In a packed Value City Arena in front of an ESPN2 audience, Iowa (16-4, 8-1) was rarely fazed on the street. Even with a late break that left the Hawkeyes nearly six minutes without a point to end the third quarter, Iowa never gave up the lead after the opening minutes of the second quarter.
With a 56-44 lead reduced to a two-point lead, there were plenty of signs that a surge in Ohio State’s degree was on the horizon. Monika Czinano was in more late foul trouble. The Buckeyes’ press intensified. All with starter McKenna Warnock in street clothes after suffering a rib cage injury against Michigan State.
Iowa didn’t allow it.
“(Ohio State) fought back,” Bluder said. “We’re two up at the start of the fourth quarter and I said to our team, ‘Okay, you just have to win the game by two points. You don’t have to win it with more than that.’”
Consecutive 3-pointers to start the fourth from Molly Davis and Clark stabilized a teetering Iowa offense. Twice Ohio State came within four in the first two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. Twice Clark responded with timely buckets.
Czinano, who picked up her fourth foul late in the third and only played 24 minutes overall, also reappeared midway through the fourth with six straight Iowa points. A three-pointer followed from Kate Martin, who extended the Hawkeyes’ lead to a game-high 13 points, 75-62, with 3-11 to go. Veterans Clark and Martin completed it at the free throw line.
Clark finished the game with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists, with much of the production coming in the fourth quarter when Iowa cemented an upset. Czinano finished the race with 22 points in 11-for-13 shooting. The always punctual Martin added her own double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Rising freshman Hannah Stuelke added eight points and a game-high 13 boards in 22 minutes, which added to Iowa’s dominant 51-31 rebound advantage overall.
Turns out, Clark’s teammates had more at stake than just securing a Signature win.
“I told everyone on my birthday that this is the only gift I want. And they promised me,” said a laughing Clark, who turned 21 on Sunday. “So I’m glad my teammates aren’t liars. They had my back and we made it.
“But it was a great game. We got through a lot. We got through their runs. We got through Monika being in trouble, we didn’t play with McKenna. I think a lot of people really stepped up and our defense was really good .We threw many different things at them.I thought they were confused.They didn’t know what to do.And that’s how you gotta beat the country’s No.2 team.
Ohio State got 21 points from Cotie McMahon and another 20 from Taylor Thierry, but the Buckeyes spent most of the evening chasing down an experienced Iowa unit. Even when Ohio State finally got its press up and running, the effort was just to get back within reach.
This was the only regular-season meeting between these two Big Ten title contenders. The Hawkeyes moved to the top of the league standings and there was a lot more exciting basketball left.
“We know that game won’t matter if the NCAA tournament happens in March,” Bluder said. “But it does so much for our confidence. It does so much for our NCAA Tournament seed to have a top 5 win on their home court. It’s a really good feeling because (Ohio State) came last after Carver two years and beat us. So it was nice to return the favor.”
Dargan Southard is a sports trends reporter, covering athletics in Iowa for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Dargan_Southard.