Caitlin Clark injured in No. 6 Iowa women's basketball loss; status for Sunday unknown

Dargan Southard
Des Moines Register

A chaotic final sequence stuck the No. 6 Iowa women’s basketball team with a sour loss Thursday night at Kansas State.

The Hawkeyes coughed up a five-point lead over the final four minutes, allowing the Wildcats to sink a game-winning free throw in the final seconds in an 84-83 loss at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas.

Four seesawing quarters gave way to an ending full of drama. With the score tied, Kansas State's Gabby Gregory drove to the basket and drew a foul with 4.7 seconds left. Iowa’s Kate Martin got caught backpedaling in the paint to produce a whistle. Gregory sunk the first and missed the second, allowing Iowa to rebound and call a timeout with three seconds left.

Iowa star Caitlin Clark stumbled and rolled her ankle on the in-bounds, but she managed to get the ball to McKenna Warnock as the seconds ticked away. Warnock found Monika Czinano, who was hacked under the hoop but not before the horn sounded.

A review ensued. Clark had to be helped to the bench. Kansas State jubilation took it from there.

Bluder said postgame she didn't know if Clark would be available for Sunday's game at Belmont. It's the same ankle Clark turned in the season-opener against Southern.

"Do not have any idea," Bluder said. "She twisted an ankle. She had twisted it earlier. Same one, unfortunately."

Kansas State guard Jaelyn Glenn (3) tries to steal the ball from Iowa guard Kate Martin during the first half of Thursday's game at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Iowa had a 78-73 advantage with 3½ minutes to go. Even after Kansas State erased that lead in less than 30 seconds, Clark drained a deep trey that seemingly restored Iowa order. The Hawkeyes, though, had just two more points from there.

Clark finished with 27 points on 6-for-17 shooting, buoyed by a 13-for-16 showing at the line. Czinano added 18, but had just four over the last seven minutes. Gregory led the Kansas State cause with 24 points and got another 24 from Serena Sundell. Sarah Shematsi added 18 on six treys.

The Hawkeyes seemed ready to grab control late in the second quarter, jumping out to a 40-28 advantage with 3:53 until the break. But the Wildcats refused to let Iowa take that momentum into the half, ripping off a 10-0 surge that pulled Kansas State back within a bucket.

The back-and-forth action continued, with Iowa only sporadically jumping out to multi-possession leads before Kansas State answered back. Even without having to deal with Wildcats star Ayoka Lee — a second-team all-American last year who underwent season-ending knee surgery in August — the Hawkeyes couldn’t shake pesky Kansas State.  

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder motions to her players during the first half of Thursday's game at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

The trek to Kansas was already a special moment long before the final horn sounded. Iowa used the trip to catch up with Ava Jones, Iowa’s latest signee who is recovering after being hit by a vehicle in July.

Jones’ hometown of Nickerson is about 140 miles south of Bramlage Coliseum, which allowed her to be around her future team and attend Thursday’s game. Kansas State joined Iowa in wearing “Kansas State believes in Ava Jones” shirts during warmups.

Bluder believes in her team as well. Iowa faces a treacherous non-conference schedule filled with future NCAA Tournament participants. This five-day stretch that includes two tricky but winnable road tests isn’t even the most difficult stretch of it.

After hosting Belmont on Sunday, the Hawkeyes head to the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament in Portland for games against Oregon State (Nov. 25) and either Duke or Connecticut (Nov. 27). Two top-10 home games come after that to start next month: Dec. 1 vs. No. 7 North Carolina State and Dec. 7 vs. No. 8 Iowa State.

The Hawkeyes don’t need to digest that all at once, but stumbling Thursday adds more concern considering what’s up ahead.     

Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.