Caitlin Clark's big fourth quarter pushes No. 21 Iowa women's basketball past Rutgers

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

Upset elements lingered longer than Iowa would've liked Thursday night. But Caitlin Clark wouldn't let them stick. The Hawkeye women's basketball team found a way to survive in the most important road game of the season.

Clark delivered another strong fourth quarter to lift No. 22 Iowa to a key victory over Rutgers, 87-78, in Piscataway, New Jersey. The Hawkeyes clinched a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament with the win and remain in contention for at least a share of the regular-season title.

It's often tight when Iowa (19-7, 13-4 Big Ten Conference) and Rutgers (9-19, 2-14) meet, no matter what kind of season either squad has had. The Hawkeyes sit near the top of the league — the Scarlet Knights scraping along near the bottom — but a seesawing game into the fourth quarter still unfolded.

Up by double digits for much of the third quarter and briefly into the fourth, the Hawkeyes still couldn't fully shake Rutgers until time finally ran out. The Scarlet Knights made Clark show her stardom in winning time. Iowa's superstar answered in one of the season's biggest spots.

Sixteen of her game-high 32 points arrived over the final 10 minutes, including one stretch in which she scored 12 consecutive Iowa points. She sandwiched two 3-pointers around four layups as the Hawkeyes' offensive engine for more than three straight minutes.

Despite all of Clark's heroics, Rutgers still had its deficit at one possession as the final minute began. A timely layup from McKenna Warnock, which arrived on one of Clark's nine assists, gave Iowa enough breathing room to escape the East Coast with a needed road victory. 

Warnock finished with 19 points on five treys, further cementing her return from a nagging hand injury. Monika Czinano added 23 points on 10-for-11 shooting as Iowa cleaned up its offense in the second half. Twelve turnovers at the break preceded only five in the second half.

With Michigan and Ohio State winning earlier in the day, Iowa needed a victory to match and keep their regular-season title hopes alive. The Hawkeyes did just enough and now will host the Wolverines Sunday in what could be a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena.   

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 guard Caitlin Clark, shown during a Dec. 18, 2021, game vs. Central Florida, scored 16 of her 32 points in the fourth quarter on Thursday at Rutgers.