Caitlin Clark's 45 points not enough for No. 10 Iowa women's basketball in loss to No. 11 NC State

Dargan Southard
Des Moines Register

IOWA CITY — Often throughout an intense, seesawing fourth quarter, Iowa tried to wield its home-court advantage. On a night when offensive stability was tough to muster and defensive cohesion even tougher, the Hawkeyes needed every ounce of support to survive all No. 12 North Carolina State had to offer.

Caitlin Clark begged for noise. So did her teammates. The Wolfpack didn’t care one bit.

Clark did all she could to keep No. 10 Iowa afloat in one of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge’s premier matchups, but the Hawkeyes couldn’t pair defensive stops with Clark's heroics en route to a 94-81 North Carolina State win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Clark poured in a game-high 45 points, showcasing her trademark range and willingness to let it fly from anywhere. For moments in the second half, it seemed that could be enough. She strung together back-to-back-to-back treys early in the fourth to bring Iowa within four, but the Hawkeyes got no closer.

"Caitlin Clark, I don't know if I've ever seen anything like that. It was unbelievable, but I thought our kids did a pretty good job," Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said. "That's what is scary. Overall, they kept their composure in this environment."

Clark’s magnificent effort took a backseat to larger Iowa issues.

North Carolina State bottled up Monika Czinano from the opening tip, holding her to five points on four shots. Thursday marked the first time Czinano has had single-digit points in consecutive games since February 2020. Getting her clean touches was a challenge Iowa never conquered.

"I don't know why we couldn't get her the ball tonight, honestly," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "They were on her back. I mean, why can't we pass a ball to a post when the post defense in on her back? It's maddening."

Defense was just as difficult. The Wolfpack’s highest-scoring quarter arrived in the fourth, when a barrage of buckets squashed any comeback vibes the Hawkeyes tried to manifest. Clark’s treys were the only time Iowa scored consecutive fourth-quarter baskets without North Carolina State scoring in between.

Iowa's Caitlin Clark scored 45 points Thursday against North Carolina State, but the Hawkeyes walked off the court with a 94-81 loss when the night was done.

Diamond Johnson and Saniya Rivers co-led the Wolfpack with 22 points apiece, with Jakia Brown-Turner, Jada Boyd and Camille Hobby all also reaching double figures.

"There were a couple times when we didn't get the defensive board, especially late in the game," Clark said. "I know they had two (offensive boards) in a row and eventually made a layup. I thought our ball-screen defense could've been better. I think our help defense could've been better. Literally all of it, I think all of it could've been better.

"I thought (our defense) was pretty good versus UConn (on Nov. 27). But then we come here on our home floor, and it wasn't good at all. And that's the reason we lost. It wasn't anything other than that."

North Carolina State would've put the game away much sooner if not for Clark's early efforts. Clark’s opening 20 minutes were nothing short of spectacular — and the only reason Iowa faced a manageable halftime deficit.   

Just about everything splashed home for Clark, who doesn’t always produce the most efficient stat line but did so with authority Thursday. A nifty free-throw-line jumper that taught a lesson on space-creating highlighted Clark’s 10-for-15 showing from the field. Her 24 first-half points accounted for nearly 70% of Iowa’s scoring to that point.

"I think whenever I score 40 points, we lose," Clark said. "So it's not something I want to do."

The first month of the season resulted in three losses after Iowa began the year as a top-10 squad. There are more big opportunities to come, notably next week against Iowa State, but this Hawkeye product doesn't look ready to take advantage of them.

The schedule hasn't been easy. That's how Iowa wanted it, though.

"We want to be there, too," Bluder said. "And we're not right now. I mean, we're just not."

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