A chaotic final sequence brought the No. 6 women’s basketball team from Iowa to Kansas State on Thursday night with a bitter loss.
The Hawkeyes coughed out a five-point lead in the final four minutes, allowing the Wildcats to sink a game-winning free throw in the dying seconds in an 84-83 loss at the Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas.
Four oscillating quarters gave way to an ending full of drama. In a tie, Kansas State’s Gabby Gregory drove to the basket and pulled a foul with 4.7 seconds remaining. Kate Martin, from Iowa, was caught pulling back in color to bring out a whistle. Gregory sank the first and missed the second, allowing Iowa to recover and call a timeout with three seconds left.
Iowa star Caitlin Clark tripped and rolled her ankle on the inbounds, but she managed to get the ball to McKenna Warnock as the seconds ticked by. Warnock found Monika Czinano chopped under the tire but not before the horn sounded.
A review followed. Clark had to be helped onto the bench. Kansas State cheers took it from there.
Iowa held a 78-73 advantage with 3½ minutes left. Even after Kansas State erased that lead in less than 30 seconds, Clark dumped a deep trey that seemingly restored order in Iowa. However, the Hawkeyes only had two points from there.
Clark finished with 27 points on 6-for-17 shooting, sustained by a 13-for-16 shooting at the line. Czinano added 18 but only had four in the last seven minutes.
Gregory led the Kansas State Cause with 24 points and received another 24 from Serena Sundell. Sarah Shematsi added 18 to six Treys.
The Hawkeyes seemed poised to take control late in the second quarter, going 3:53 by the break to a 40-28 lead. But the Wildcats refused to let Iowa take that momentum into the half, ripping off a 10-0 jab that dragged Kansas State back into a bucket.
The back-and-forth action continued, with Iowa only sporadically jumping up to multi-ownership leads before Kansas State responded. Even without having to deal with Wildcats star Ayoka Lee — an all-American second-team player who underwent season-ending knee surgery in August — the Hawkeyes couldn’t shake the troublesome state of Kansas.
The trek to Kansas was a special moment long before the last horn sounded. Iowa used the trip to meet with Ava Jones, Iowa’s newest signee, who is recovering after being hit by a vehicle in July.
Jones’ hometown of Nickerson is about 140 miles south of Bramlage Coliseum, which allowed her to be close to her future team and attend Thursday’s game. Kansas State aligned with Iowa and wore T-shirts that read “Kansas State Believes in Ava Jones” during the warm-up.
Bluder also believes in her team. Iowa faces a treacherous non-conference schedule filled with future NCAA tournament entrants. This five-day track, which includes two tricky but victorious road tests, isn’t even the toughest track of it.
After welcoming Belmont on Sunday, the Hawkeyes travel to the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament in Portland, where they play Oregon State (Nov. 25) and either Duke or Connecticut (Nov. 27). That is followed by two top 10 home games starting next month: December 1st against No. 7 North Carolina State and December 7th against No. 8 Iowa State.
The Hawkeyes don’t have to digest this all at once, but Thursday’s stumble heightens concerns about what lies ahead.
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 at @Dargan_Southard.