Iowa women’s basketball team Caitlin Clark and Lisa Bluder are committed to passionate play

After Caitlin Clark was called a technical foul for saying “damn,” she advocated letting women basketball players play with fire.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder reaches for the hand of guard Caitlin Clark during a women’s basketball game between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Wednesday, January 11, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 93-64.

Iowa women’s basketball junior guard Caitlin Clark is passionate about playing the floor. But lately, her passion has been punished.

Clark received a technical foul for telling herself “damn” after missing a shot against Northwestern on Jan. 11. The technical foul didn’t affect the outcome of the game – the Wildcats missed both technical free throws and the Hawkeyes won. 93-64 – the All-American was still frustrated with the call.

“It’s kind of frustrating, but that’s the way things work sometimes,” Clark said after the game. “In women’s basketball, people have to play with passion, people have to play with fire. That’s what it’s about, that’s what I am… that’s what draws people to the game, that’s what draws people to our team. We’re excited, we’re fun, we’re competitive. That’s why women’s basketball is great, and that’s why it will continue to grow.”

Raygun — a t-shirt company that makes trendy shirts in Iowa City — quickly produced a black shirt with the words “Damn” in gold letters. Clark posed with a fan wearing the jersey at Iowa’s Jan. 14 game against Penn State.

Clark was hit by a deliberate foul on January 18 while Iowa was traveling to East Lansing, Michigan to play Michigan State.

The Hawkeyes were three points up, 82-79, with five seconds left in overtime when they were called upon to shove a Michigan State player. The call gave Michigan State two free throws and possession, potentially changing the outcome of the game, but Iowa escaped in an 84-81 win.

“Caitlin will be held down the whole game — she’ll be grabbed, pinched,” head coach Lisa Bluder said Sunday. “I don’t know how Caitlin keeps her composure. I could not do it.

“In situations like this, emotions run high and she’s reacted,” Bluder added. “I always tell her, ‘The second reaction, the second action, gets called.’ It’s not the first action; It’s the second action and that’s what’s really brutal about our game.”

Bluder added the officer could have stopped the scrum that led to Clark’s advance at any time, but he decided against it. And that kind of officiating wouldn’t happen in the men’s game, she said.

“I will defend Caitlin to the death. She takes so much on the floor,” Bluder said. “And I just can’t believe we let this happen to her. I just don’t think that would happen to one of the best basketball players in the country. I don’t, and unfortunately she has to endure a lot.”

Women basketball players at the Power Five conferences have also spoken out against what they believe to be unjust demands.

Angel Reese, LSU’s top scorer at 15.6 points per game and blocker at 28, blocked a shot against Arkansas while holding one of her shoes.

Reese was called a technical foul for staring at the blocked shot. After the game, which LSU won 79-76, Reese called to normalize the game’s passion.

Sometimes passion can come in the form of trash talking an opponent, Bluder said. But she thinks if that’s what a player has to do, she doesn’t care.

“If people want to talk trash, that’s their business,” Bluder said. “I don’t care. If that’s what you want to do, if you think you have to do it to impose your will on someone else, then so be it. I never ask because I don’t care.”