Caitlin Clark shakes off sluggish start, guides No. 8 Iowa women's basketball to Cy-Hawk win

Dargan Southard
Des Moines Register

IOWA CITY — Her emotion can sometimes overshadow her production, but you want Caitlin Clark’s energy on your side when you desperately need it.

Don’t believe? Look no further than Wednesday’s Cy-Hawk showdown.

Locked in a sluggish, grueling affair that had Clark and the Iowa offense out of whack for more than a half, a huge Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd was underutilized aside from a few sporadic moments. Clark completely changed all that in about five minutes.

Igniting a relentless third-quarter surge that saw No. 13 Iowa snatch momentum en route to a 70-57 win over No. 8 Iowa State, Clark bounced back from a horrendous shooting start to guide the Hawkeyes (7-3) to their most impressive win of the season.

"It's something my teammates feed off. I know I need to bring that energy every night," Clark said. "It makes it really easy when you're making shots, your teammates are making shots. And then obviously, our crowd was incredible. They're the reason I have that energy. I know they're going to be loud for me when I do that."

Although it wasn’t the offensive masterpiece many envisioned, Clark’s ability to read the room and inject energy at the most crucial time showcased her growth as a leader as much as a player. While six of her game-high 19 points came on two noise-inducing treys during Iowa’s 19-2 third-quarter run, it was the effort beyond the box score that popped the most.

She repeatedly asked for noise, and the fans obliged on just about every defensive possession. An emphatic fist pump here, an intense floor slap there — all of it helped the Hawkeyes surge past Iowa State before the fourth-quarter tension kicked in.

"I've always played the game of basketball that way — a lot of energy, a lot of passion," said Clark, who added eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals in 38 tough minutes. "I think that's what brings people to the arena, because I play with that emotion. That's how women's basketball should be played, and that's what people should enjoy about it as well."

When the Cyclones flocked to Clark, she found others open for easy buckets. Three Addison O’Grady layups were set up by Clark in some form or fashion. A Clark-induced chest bump was awaiting the young center during the next timeout.

All the early evidence was there for Clark to be rattled beyond repair. She opened 2-for-14 shooting with six first-half points, at one point owning more free throws (1) than field goals (0). The Hawkeyes themselves had only 23 points at the break.

For this Iowa team, though, offensive sputters are easier to fight through than defensive lapses. The Hawkeyes' point-scoring product can be better resurrected on the fly, and no one — including Clark — fretted that shots would keep clanking.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) pumps up the crowd during Wednesday's game against Iowa State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"It just shows how I've matured over the last two years," Clark said. "In the past, (the slow shooting start) would completely take me out of my game. But I knew in the third quarter, the shots have to go down. Trust the work you've put in, help my teammates get involved — and that's exactly what I did."

Clark has long been OK without clean shooting lines, believing her overall volume of production will find a way to make an impact. The reward is a quality non-conference win coated in rivalry fun that has the Hawkeyes back on track with the main portion of Big Ten play looming.

Iowa fans won't remember Clark's 7-for-20 shooting with five turnovers. They won't forget her pronounced passion with so much on the line.

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.