Iowa women's basketball: No. 12 Hawkeyes get right in blowout win over Michigan State

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — For all that went wrong Thursday night at Duke, many of the Iowa women's basketball ingredients needed for an emphatic rebound were present Sunday.

Solid crowd? Check. The curtains at Carver-Hawkeye Arena were pulled up to accommodate more fans, as is the case for all big games. 

Important historical moment? Check. Thursday's loss meant the Hawkeyes could be at home for Lisa Bluder's 800th career win. 

And finally, offensive bounce-back? You bet. 

Blend it all together and you got No. 12 Iowa's 88-61 win over Michigan State to open Big Ten play with authority. An announced crowd of 6,942 watched Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes soar with a dominant third quarter that showcased what Iowa (5-1) is about. Those in black and gold stuck around postgame to give Bluder a proper ovation. 

"It is special being on your home court, obviously," Bluder said, "and just sharing that with your family and your players. Honestly, the women on this team are just so much fun and I enjoy them so much. I'm very thankful that I get to be around them every day."   

Before Sunday's trouncing could be fully celebrated, there were moments of doubt in a seesawing first half. The Hawkeyes got up by double digits twice, only to see Michigan State close the second quarter strong for a two-point intermission deficit. This wasn't the situation Iowa envisioned in such a key spot. 

Then the third quarter happened. And all suspense left a booming Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

Iowa cruised to a 33-11 advantage in the third, owning both ends of the court the way this cohesive unit knows it can. On the defensive end, Michigan State (7-4) mustered just three field goals over the quarter's final nine minutes. Contested shots and a bevy of turnovers accentuated the defensive progress Iowa is hoping to make. 

Success there led to a slew of easy buckets on the other end. Iowa had nine layups in the third quarter alone, plus five more free throws that came via fast-break opportunities. A Michigan State squad with a decent record but little high-end experience was suddenly overwhelmed beyond recovery.

"When we came out in that third quarter," Clark said, "they called a timeout when we went up 12. And we said, 'OK, let's keep stepping on the gas. Don't let them back in the game.' And that's exactly what we did.

"I think our transition offense really kind of wore them out. It seemed like they got tired there, and we just kept pushing on, which led to a lot of layups for us."   

The box score balance was only fitting in such a monumental win for Bluder, who loves it when the wealth is shared. Entering the fourth, Clark, Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock had combined to outscore the Spartans by five. That trio finished with 24,19 and 21 points.

Clark added 12 assists and 10 rebounds for her second triple-double this season. A nice defensive effort on Michigan State star Nia Clouden required her to take 15 shots for 18 points. 

As much as it was obvious Iowa's COVID-19 disruption played a sizable role in Thursday's struggles, the Hawkeyes still had to show it was a one-game issue. The schedule worked out perfectly in giving Iowa a get-right game that still had significant meaning. The Hawkeyes were more than happy to take advantage.

"I'm glad we could bounce back right after that Duke performance that we had," Warnock said. "We feel like Iowa's back now."     

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.  

Iowa women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder, left, celebrates with associate head coach Jan Jensen after Sunday's 88-61 triumph over Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The victory was the 800th career win for Bluder.