Caitlin Clark's triple-double powers No. 10 Iowa women's basketball past No. 2 Ohio State
Although Ohio State has spent the last few months showcasing why it feels it's among the elite in women’s basketball, it was Lisa Bluder’s veteran Iowa squad that shined brightest with everyone watching Monday.
The No. 10 Hawkeyes built an early cushion that held up when the offense went cold to end the third quarter, then leaned on the program pillars to bring home the victory. Sparked by Caitlin Clark’s eighth career triple-double, Iowa’s final product was an 83-72 win over the No. 2 Buckeyes (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten Conference). That ended Ohio State's winning streak at 19.
"Hopefully it means we're one of the top five teams in the country," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said on the postgame radio show. "That's where this team set its goals."
Inside a sold-out Value City Arena with an ESPN2 audience watching, Iowa (16-4, 8-1) was rarely rattled on the road. Even with a late lull that saw the Hawkeyes go nearly six minutes without a point to end the third quarter, Iowa never surrendered the lead after the second quarter’s opening minutes.
With a 56-44 advantage trimmed down to a two-point lead, there were plenty of signs an Ohio State finishing surge was coming. Monika Czinano was in more late foul trouble. The Buckeyes’ press was intensifying. All this with starter McKenna Warnock in street clothes after suffering a rib-cage injury against Michigan State.
Iowa didn’t let it happen.
"(Ohio State) battled back," Bluder said. "We're up two to begin the fourth quarter, and I said to our team, 'OK, you only have to win the game by two. You don't have to win it by more than that.'"
Back-to-back 3-pointers to start the fourth from Molly Davis and Clark stabilized a reeling Iowa offense. Twice Ohio State got within four in the fourth quarter’s first two-and-half minutes. Twice Clark answered with timely buckets.
Czinano, who picked up her fourth foul late in the third and played just 24 minutes overall, re-emerged as well with six straight Iowa points midway through the fourth. A Kate Martin trey followed that pushed the Hawkeyes’ lead to a game-high 13 points, 75-62, with 3:11 left. Veterans Clark and Martin closed it out at the free-throw line.
Clark finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists, much of the production coming in the fourth quarter as Iowa cemented an upset. Czinano finished with 22 points on 11-for-13 shooting. The always-timely Martin added her own double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Surging freshman Hannah Stuelke added eight points and a game-high 13 boards in 22 minutes, adding to Iowa's dominant 51-31 rebounding edge overall.
Turns out, Clark's teammates had more on the line than just securing a signature win.
"I told everyone for my birthday, this is the only present I wanted. And they promised it to me," said a laughing Clark, who turned 21 Sunday. "So I'm glad my teammates aren't liars. They had my back, and we pulled through.
"But that was a tremendous game. We weathered some stuff. We weathered their runs. We weathered Monika being in foul trouble, didn't play with McKenna. I think a lot of people really stepped up and our defense was really good. We threw a lot of different stuff at them. I thought they were confused. They didn't know what to do. And that's how you have to beat the No. 2 team in the country."
Ohio State got 21 points from Cotie McMahon and another 20 from Taylor Thierry, but the Buckeyes spent the bulk of the evening chasing down an experienced Iowa unit. Even when Ohio State finally got its press going, the effort was just to get back within reach.
This was the only regular-season meeting between these two Big Ten title contenders. The Hawkeyes moved atop the league standings with plenty of exciting basketball left.
"We know this game won't matter when the NCAA Tournament is happening in March," Bluder said. "But it does so much for our confidence. It does so much for our seeding in the NCAA Tournament, to have a top-five win on their home court. It's a really good feeling because (Ohio State) has come into Carver the last two years and beat us. So it was nice to return the favor."
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.