Caitlin Clark, No. 12 Iowa women's basketball shine on national stage in win over No. 19 Michigan
The first Big Ten women's basketball game ever televised on Fox offered up the perfect stage for Iowa to regain momentum inside this rugged conference.
The No. 12 Hawkeyes fought through an early deficit Saturday and leaned on Caitlin Clark late to secure their best road victory this season — a 94-85 win over No. 19 Michigan in front of a rowdy Crisler Center crowd in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The win gets Iowa (12-4, 4-1 Big Ten Conference) on the board in the new year and keeps the Hawkeyes near the top of the league standings.
Clark lit up Michigan (13-3, 3-2) twice last season with riveting scoring performances, so it was no surprise to see her as the catalyst in Saturday's rebound. She poured in 19 of her game-high 28 points in the second half, as Iowa morphed a 41-39 intermission lead into a double-digit advantage for much of the fourth quarter. Unlike last year in Ann Arbor — where Clark's jaw-dropping shots turned plenty of heads but couldn't push Iowa to a win — the Hawkeyes took advantage of this national-stage opportunity with a key victory in their only Michigan matchup this season.
Clark, though, wasn't the only Hawkeye hero.
After a scoreless first quarter, Monika Czinano bounced back with authority in delivering 19 points, five rebounds and eight assists. McKenna Warnock supplied 14 for her fourth straight double-digit scoring game. But perhaps no supplemental effort was more crucial than what Iowa got from Kate Martin, who put up 10 third-quarter points with a personal 6-0 run that handed the Hawkeyes necessary separation to pull away.
Reaching that point first required a strong Iowa push to end the first half. After falling behind by as many as 10 on two different occasions, the Hawkeyes closed the second quarter on a 20-8 surge to snatch away momentum. A deep Clark trey capped the run and had Iowa rolling.
Michigan built its early cushion via Laila Phelia, who poured in 14 first-quarter points while hitting five of her first eight shots. From there, though? Iowa limited Phelia to just two points over the final three quarters. She missed her last six attempts.
As much as Iowa's New Year's Day loss at Illinois stung, Saturday's performance more than makes up for it as the Hawkeyes navigate through the early portion of Big Ten play. Iowa will need to string many more quality showings together to win this league, but Saturday restores confidence the Hawkeyes can accomplish exactly that.
Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.