No. 8 Iowa women's basketball can't hold off UConn comeback at Phil Knight Legacy

Dargan Southard
Des Moines Register

Iowa had a women’s basketball giant on the ropes for more than a half Sunday, even controlling extended portions of this rematch from 20 months ago that wasn’t really close.

Connecticut, though, found its firepower in time.

In a highly anticipated top-10 matchup at the Phil Knight Legacy in Portland, Oregon, the No. 8 Hawkeyes couldn’t hold off a second-half charge from the No. 3 Huskies, resulting in a 86-79 UConn win at the Moda Center.

The game was much closer than when these two squads met in the 2021 NCAA Tournament (a 92-72 UConn victory), but Iowa still couldn’t contain all the Huskies had to offer. The Hawkeyes (5-2) largely shut down UConn superstar Azzi Fudd in the first half. Not so much in the second.

Fudd’s 24 points ignited a UConn comeback after the Hawkeyes owned the second quarter and the early part of the third en route to a 52-41 lead with 6:30 left until the final period. Strong offensive efforts from Caitlin Clark (25 points) and Kate Martin (20 points) carried Iowa to a surprising cushion. But Iowa couldn’t keep pace in the fourth.

Alongside Clark and Martin were 14 points from McKenna Warnock, who was often left open from deep but finished just 3-for-11 there. Gabbie Marshall added 10 points. Iowa couldn't get Monika Czinano going, as she finished with eight points.

UConn picked up 20 points from Aaliyah Edwards, 15 from Caroline Ducharme, 11 from Lou Lopez-Senechal and 10 via Aubrey Griffin.   

Connecticut forward Aaliyah Edwards (3) shoots between Iowa forward Monika Czinano, left, and forward McKenna Warnock during the first half of Sunday's game in Portland.

A zone-defense switch midway through the first half helped Iowa grab control for the first time. The Hawkeyes flummoxed UConn in the second quarter, kept the Huskies cold from deep, and used that defensive momentum to ignite something on the other end. This stretch went to Martin, who delivered maybe the best offensive quarter of her Iowa career with 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting. The Hawkeyes carried a 41-35 lead into halftime and avoided the first hurdle of an early blowout.

The Huskies, though, showcased their prowess in the third, leaning on Fudd while shutting down Clark. UConn’s superstar rebounded for 16 third-quarter points on a perfect 7-for-7 from the field. Iowa’s superstar didn’t score while watching an 11-point, third-quarter lead slip away.

All in all, it was a productive West Coast trip for the Hawkeyes. They entered a bit sluggish following a tough overtime win at Drake, a painful loss at Kansas State and a grind-it-out victory over Belmont. They’ll return home with a nice showing against Oregon State and a valiant effort against one of the sport’s top programs.

Iowa guard Kate Martin reacts after making a 3-point basket against Connecticut on Sunday in Portland. Martin made all six of her 3-point attempts against UConn.

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.