'An absolute machine': Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark is already matching her five-star hype

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

During this COVID-19 season of college basketball, players get only two tickets to give away for loved ones to come and see them.

But thanks to some selfless teammates, Iowa freshman point guard Caitlin Clark was able to get 13 tickets for friends, family members and former coaches at the Knapp Center as the former Dowling Catholic star and the Hawkeyes played Drake.

And, man, did she put on a show for her Wednesday night homecoming.

Clark logged 30 points, 13 assists and four steals in Iowa's 103-97 win over the Bulldogs, who also recruited her hard in high school. She shot 12-for-19 and drew six fouls, and she got five of those assists in the decisive fourth quarter.

Here's a a stat for you: According to Her Hoops Stats, since the 2015-16 women's college basketball season, one freshman has scored at least 30 points and dished at least 10 assists in a game.

And it's Clark. That's it.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark puts in a layup in the second quarter against Drake at the Knapp Center in Des Moines on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020.

"She’s just an absolute machine. Every time she shoots, I’m really, really confident that it’s going in the basket," said Iowa's Monika Czinano, who poured in 27 points of her own. "To have that type of trust is unreal."

In two games, Iowa's 6-foot lead guard has already shown why she was a consensus five-star, top-five national prospect. She's showing why Lisa Bluder had to fend off the likes of Notre Dame, Texas, Oregon and Oregon State to land her. Against Northern Iowa and Drake, Clark has recorded 57 points (on 22-for-38 shooting), 17 assists, 11 rebounds and seven steals.

For comparison, here are the stats from the first two freshman-year games from a couple recent transcendent Hawkeyes, Megan Gustafson and Ally Disterhoft ...

  • Gustafson: 22 points, 8-for-12, eight rebounds
  • Disterhoft: 20 points, 7-fot-15, 12 rebounds, five assists
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark dribbles the ball down the court as she is pressed by Drake's Kierra Collier in the first quarter at the Knapp Center in Des Moines on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020.

Early on against Drake, Clark showed off her offensive prowess, what she was most known for in high school. She scored off the dribble. She pulled up and drained shots from anywhere on the floor. What was most impressive, however, was her ability to get past her defender on the perimeter almost at will with a deep arsenal of moves, and her consistent ability to create space for a clean shot.

"Boy, some of those offensive plays that she made were pretty special," Bluder said.

In the fourth quarter, however, Clark showed off her underrated passing skills.

All 30 of her points came in the first three quarters. Her fourth-quarter stats? Zero points, five assists and a whole lot of facilitating as her teammates outscored Drake 38-29 in the final period.

"There are definitely some things she does where, once the thing she did is over, you’re just kind of like, 'Oh, wow. That actually just happened.' But I think some of the beauty of Caitlin is that even though she didn’t score in the fourth quarter, she was dishing out assists," said Czinano, who made four of her five fourth-quarter baskets on assists from Clark. "She was keeping the team glued together. She was really motivating us. That’s all you want from a teammate, and I think that speaks a lot to maturity, especially from a freshman."

Added Clark: "The one huge thing for me is being able to rely on my teammates more, especially tonight — they stepped up huge for us. And I think in high school it’s kind of more all on me to kind of do it all to help us win. But I think tonight that really showed, where I was just able to facilitate more."

Clark knows it's one thing to look like a legitimate star in two games against Missouri Valley Conference teams. Putting up those numbers against Big Ten competition — and Iowa begins its Big Ten slate Saturday afternoon when it hosts Wisconsin — is an entirely different task.

"I'm just two games in," Clark said. "I haven't played a Big Ten team yet, so that will probably be way more physical and it'll take a lot out of me for those games, but I'm excited and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."

Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.