Iowa women's basketball: No. 15 Ohio State ends Hawkeyes' 42-game home win streak
IOWA CITY, Ia. — On days when it's blatantly obvious a quality crowd would be a valuable weapon, the empty arenas splattered across college basketball appear even weirder than usual. The Hawkeyes have suffered as much as anyone in that department given their incredible home mystique.
In a rare Wednesday matinee, Iowa got one of its toughest tests in upholding this magical Carver-Hawkeye Arena winning streak that's covered parts of four seasons. Forty-two straight games without a loss on that court was at stake when No. 15 Ohio State trekked into Iowa City.
When the final horn sounded, as cutouts outnumbered actual bodies in the seats, disappointment lingered throughout a cavernous gym. A game the Hawkeyes seemingly had in control early and into the second half slipped away late. The Buckeyes will head out of town having successfully waded through Iowa's home aura.
A fourth-quarter rally spilled into overtime success, as Ohio State's 84-82 win handed Iowa its first Carver-Hawkeye Arena stumble since Jan. 28, 2018, against Nebraska.
"I'm disappointed," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said "We had an opportunity to win this game."
Despite Iowa (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten Conference) leading by as many as 13 in the first half, 14 early in the third quarter and six in the fourth, extending the streak hinged on a Caitlin Clark trey in the waning overtime seconds. There was no magical moment on this day for Iowa's decorated freshman, whose potential game-winning attempt clanked right just before the horn sounded.
Clark finished with 27 points but needed three more for a victorious celebration. After going 3-for-4 from deep in the opening quarter, Clark missed her final five downtown attempts.
"The feeling we have right now is that we gave a game away that could've been a huge win for us," Clark said. "Those are tough shots. Sometimes you're going to make them. Sometimes you're going to miss them. You can't make them all, that's for sure. At the end of overtime, you've just got to heave it up there and hope it goes in."
The Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0) snatched the lead for good in the final two minutes of overtime. An 83-80 advantage with 48 seconds left held up despite a McKenna Warnock layup cutting things to one, and Ohio State's ensuing free-throw split that gave Iowa a last gasp with 19 seconds left.
As Ohio State stormed center court in jubilation moments later, an array of Iowa errors went under the microscope. Nine missed free throws, 18 turnovers and 26 Ohio State points off those miscues gravitated toward Bluder in her postgame assessment.
"Their press bothered us," Bluder said, "and I'm kind of surprised to be quite honest
"... Make the safe pass versus the home-run pass. I feel like we're just trying to make home-run plays a lot. You want home-run plays at the end of shot clocks and that sort of thing. You don't want home-run plays all the time. I think when we watch the film, we'll see opportunities where we could've hit cutters and looked up the floor in our press-break a lot better than we did. We definitely need to work on those things."
Both teams needed an overtime regroup following poor execution to end regulation. After Kate Martin split two free throws for a 72-all tie with 54 seconds left, not another point was scored until the overtime session commenced.
Ohio State produced a turnover. Clark did the same on a tough runner early in the shot clock, when Iowa had a chance to hold for the final shot. The Buckeyes finished the flawed final minute with Sheldon dribbling the ball off her foot and forcing a prayer runner in response.
"I could've made a better decision at the end of regulation, not taking (the shot) as quick," Clark said. "That's on me."
A team as potent as Ohio State wasn't going to quietly cooperate facing a double-digit deficit. Bluder re-emphasized this during an animated third-quarter timeout, where she laid into her Hawkeyes for poor ball movement and gameplan deviation.
The message seemed to resonate once the huddle broke, only it didn't immediately translate to the court. Five quick Ohio State points sandwiched around an Iowa turnover brought the Buckeyes within 49-46 with 4:57 remaining in the third.
That was the first time Ohio State crept within a possession since early in the opening quarter, as the Hawkeyes opened the game with quality defensive stretches and their usual offensive reliability. However, the juice from a 44-32 intermission lead eventually vanished, green-lighting seesawing action that saw neither team find a comfortable spot until the closing buzzer.
Iowa couldn't shake one of the Big Ten's best. And with Madison Greene (20 points), Jacy Sheldon (18) and Braxtin Miller (18) igniting the Buckeyes' offensive charge, all Ohio State needed was a crack to flex its comeback prowess.
Iowa, after two straight tough losses in different fashions, will need this young unit to regroup in the days ahead. The Hawkeyes host Purdue at 3:30 p.m. Monday, looking to start another extended home run.
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.