Despite 43 points from Caitlin Clark, Iowa women's basketball falls in physical affair to Ohio State
IOWA CITY — The Big Ten's top two women's basketball offenses strutted into Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday night on a mission to entertain.
Up and down the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes went, their offensive energy as vibrant as their bright red and solid gold uniforms gleaming from the court. The late-night, weeknight tip time did little to deter a solid home contingency.
Ohio State, though, had the final say.
The No. 23 Buckeyes clawed back and outlasted No. 21 Iowa throughout a seesawing and draining fourth quarter, emerging with a 92-88 win to deny the Hawkeyes (14-5, 8-2 Big Ten Conference) their first ranked win of the season. The loss snapped Iowa's seven-game winning streak.
Anguish poured from the podium as those in gold tried to dissect this as best as possible.
"Obviously disappointed in this loss," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "We had a lead in the last four or five minutes and gave it up. Ohio State's a great team and a very physical team. I don't know, it's like you quit calling fouls after a while.
"And it gets frustrating because the screens we saw tonight, I didn't think I'd be able to field a team after this game. It was that bad. That many kids were taken to the ground, slammed on screens. I've never seen anything like it before, but they made more threes than we did."
Neither team led by more than four points in the final period. When it seemed Iowa was ready to pull away, Ohio State (16-4, 8-3) countered with a slew of buckets. After Caitlin Clark's midrange jumper put Iowa up by one point with 1:19 to go, the Buckeyes scored the next four to find a sliver of cushion. Several costly turnovers plagued Iowa during that pivotal stretch. The intensity went all the way down to the final buzzer.
With Iowa down three and Kate Martin at the line after Ohio State fouled with five seconds left, Martin made the first free throw and missed the second intentionally. A loose-ball scramble ensued, with McKenna Warnock briefly grabbing possession before falling to the ground. No foul was called.
The referees gathered at the monitor, but all that was changed was a foul issued to Iowa and two Ohio State free throws. Boos and yells came pouring down as the final horn sounded and the officials quickly hurried up the tunnel.
"I thought (McKenna) got taken to the ground," Bluder said. "I thought she completely got mugged and should've been shooting two free throws. She couldn't have done it, though, because she got slammed to the ground so hard. Somebody else would've had to shoot the free throws, but I think we could've made them.
"We'll never know."
The physicality frustration permeated Iowa's entire postgame assessment.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to Gabbie (Marshall), Kate (Martin,) Kylie (Feuerbach), Tomi (Taiwo)," Clark said. "I'm not guarding the best player every single night — they are — and that's what made us go. I feel bad for them. They got hammered all night long. They were in pain.
"That's all you can ask for is for your teammates to work as hard as they did. Got to give them a lot of credit for what they did on defense."
Although trying to out-score the Hawkeyes is often a futile plan, Ohio State established early it wasn't going to be rattled by the environment or Iowa's potent weapons. The Buckeyes entered averaging 82.7 points per game — a shade below Iowa's 84 — and weren't fazed even as the Hawkeyes constructed a 9-point third-quarter lead. Ohio State was back in front early in the fourth, setting the table for a riveting final stretch of action.
Amid this run of particularly emphatic showings, Clark delivered another one with the crowd on her side. Her record-breaking triple double came on the road, as did her league-record assist performance. It was about time for the Iowa faithful to bask in success up close.
Clark finished with 43 points, with 10 of those coming in the fourth. She drained logo threes and flexed with jubilation. Anytime she asked for noise, those donning gold were more than happy to oblige. Monika Czinano added 23 points on 11-for-13 shooting.
The Buckeyes leaned on a balanced scoring effort, getting double-digit production from Taylor Miksell (24 points), Jacy Sheldon (20 points), Rebeka Mikulasikova (17 points) and Braxtin Miller (10 points). Mikulasikova was particularly deadly, draining five treys despite entering with only seven on the season.
The stage was set for anyone else in gold to be the hero on this night. But the Hawkeyes will have to settle for motivation in defeat as their prevailing emotion.
"I think we're all very eager to play again," Czinano said. "I hope we see (Ohio State) in the (Big Ten) Tournament."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.