North by Northwestern: Pursuing Caitlin Clark
Before Minnesota’s first meeting with the Hawkeyes, freshman Caitlin Clark’s buzz was already national. Against the Gophers in Iowa City, Clark’s rising star burned bright: 37 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists in 32 minutes. Minnesota put up a fight taking a 48-38 lead to the half time locker room. But the Hawkeyes cranked up the offense in the third quarter outscoring the Gophers 30-13 while coasting to a 92-79 win.
Then the Hawkeyes and their prize point guard encountered a little Big Ten turbulence.
Joe Mckeown and Northwestern’s defense welcomed Iowa to Evanston by terminating Clark’s 20+ point/game scoring streak in a 77-67 ‘Cat win. The Wildcats controlled the pace, focused on defending Clark and chased the Hawkeyes off the three-point line. As a result: Northwestern scored 28 points off 18 Iowa turnovers, held Clark to 8 points in 33 minutes and held the Hawkeyes to 5-19 from behind the arc. Clark, visibly frustrated as the game progressed, was 3-12 from the field (1-5 from 3) before fouling out. About Clark, McKeown said:
“We did a really good job of trying to keep her in front of us. (We) tried to frustrate her a little bit. When she’d beat one player, we had somebody else there to switch out. We just kept running people at her.”
Lisa Bluder summed up the game:
“[Northwestern] would score a basket, and we’d foul them, and they’d get the three-point play, and, to me, that’s the best play in basketball. And when it goes against you … it just takes the wind out of your sails a little bit.”
As for Clark:
“[Clark’s] shot certainly wasn’t falling tonight, and we needed her to get us into our offense a little bit better,” Bluder said. “I think all the pressure was really what got to her a little bit.”
Bluder saw a simple solution predicated on Monika Czinano scoring 28 points on 13-14 shooting;
“I have so much confidence in [Czinano] shooting the ball, and I’m just disappointed that she didn’t take 20 shots tonight. I think she should’ve, I mean, they couldn’t stop her. So, if somebody can’t stop you, you have to keep going back to the same well. We just didn’t do that. We were looking at so many other options tonight, besides just going at the old ‘Why not keep doing it? Why not keep doing the same, boring thing that’s been working over and over again?’”
Ohio State: Clark’s Dagger Misses the Mark
Before Ohio State’s visit to Iowa City, Bluder promised an increased emphasis on defense. Then, in one of the B1G’s most exciting games, the Buckeyes not only emerged victorious, in overtime, 84-82; they ended Iowa’s 42 game home winning streak. The Hawk’s defense may have improved a little; but their offense cooked to a 27-17 first quarter lead and a 44-32 half time advantage. The Buckeyes charged back, pushing the game into overtime tied at 72.
With :19 seconds remaining In OT and OSU leading 84-82, it was Iowa ball coming out of a time out. Of course, the ball was in Clark’s hands. Having missed a go-ahead layup with 20 seconds remaining in regulation, Clark got a chance to redeem herself with a game winning three. It didn’t fall. The winning streak did.
Despite the late misses, Clark shrugged off the Northwestern game and returned to form with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in 40 minutes. Czinano struggled before fouling out with 9 and 4 rebounds in 30 minutes. McKenna Warnock contributed a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Purdue: Clark Watches Iowa’s Game Winning Rally From the Bench
Iowa began a new home winning streak defeating Purdue 87-81. Caitlin Clark’s numbers were normal (for her) enough: 26 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. But it was the minutes played that stood out-30. With five minutes left in the game, what had been a close contest tilted in favor of Purdue 75-69. Then Caitlin Clark was subbed out for Gabbie Marshall. With Clark on the bench, the Hawk’s led by Tomai Taiwo’s defense, rallied to an 84-77 lead with 1:12 remaining. Clark returned at the :50 mark, made a steal and two subsequent free throws and then was subbed out for defense (Taiwo). Bluder wasn’t messing with a good thing.
Warnock put up 19 points and 8 rebounds and Czinano 12 points and 9 rebounds. Tomai Taiwo played 15 minutes with 5 points. It’s also worth noting that Iowa dominated from the free throw line; 25-31 compared to 5-9.
‘Cats and Clark: Round Two:
Northwestern carried its frustration defense to Iowa City. As a result, Caitlin Clark spent most of the first half on the bench with two fouls. Northwestern led 33-29 at the half. Unlike the game in Evanston, Clark hit the court running in the second half quickly racking up 6 points and an assist. Iowa used a 13-0 third quarter run to take a 9 point lead. But there was a poison pill in Iowa’s game. Turnovers. The Hawkeyes turned the ball over 23 times compared to 9 for Northwestern. More important, the Wildcats again turned the turnovers into 28 points on the way to an 87-80 win.
Clark’s final numbers were 23 points, 2 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 turnovers. Respectable; but it was a night when Lisa Bluder tried the just-let-Monika-shoot approach mentioned above. It could’ve worked. Czinano hit her first 15 shots and finished the night 17-19 for 34 points and 11 rebounds. Czinano still needed at least 4 more shots to turn a loss into a victory. So, force turnovers, frustrate Clark and keep Czinano from taking more than twenty shots is a formula for a Gopher win.
Iowa Big Ten Record (5-4):
Wins: Wisconsin 85-79, Rutgers 90-84, @ Illinois 107-68, Minnesota 92-79, Purdue 87-81
Losses: Michigan State 82-86, @ Northwestern 67-77, Ohio State 82-84, Northwestern 80-87
Postponed: @ Ohio State, @ Maryland, @ Rutgers
Caitlin Clark Last Six Games
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul Illinois 21 4 4 27 0 Minnesota 37 11 5 32 1 Northwestern 8 2 8 33 5 Ohio State 27 10 5 40 1 Purdue 26 9 4 29 2 Northwestern 23 2 8 27 4
Monika Czinano Last Six Games:
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul Illinois 15 4 4 27 4 Minnesota 19 9 2 30 1 Northwestern 28 12 2 35 4 Ohio State 9 4 0 30 5 Purdue 12 9 5 31 3 Northwestern 34 11 1 36 2
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 6’0” G Fr Caitlin Clark 32.1 25.3 6.2 6’3” F/C Jr Monika Czinano 31.4 19.6 7.4 6’1” G/F So McKenna Warnock 32.3 11.5 9.6 5’9” G So Gabbie Marshall 29.1 8.4 2.0 6’0” G RSr Kate Martin 31.0 7.9 3.6
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 6’3” C Fr Sharon Goodman 7.2 3.1 2.0 5’10” G Fr Lauren Jensen 7.3 2.0 0.6 5’10” G Jr Tomi Taiwo 9.6 3.0 1.2 5’8” G So Megan Meyer 11.6 4.5 1.1