No. 8 Iowa women's basketball fights through adversity early & late in win over Nebraska
IOWA CITY — One of the biggest positives from the Hawkeyes’ upset over Ohio State earlier in the week was Iowa’s ability to fight through adversity, particularly during an extended offensive lull that seemed to last forever.
So, the Hawkeyes gave it another try Saturday.
An ugly first quarter had No. 8 Iowa down double figures and a packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena stifled, as Nebraska grabbed instant control of this nationally televised Fox affair. Then a rough fourth quarter had Iowa trying to avoid a massive meltdown.
But just like Monday’s riveting win, Iowa found enough to emerge victorious. The final product was an 80-76 win that keeps the Hawkeyes (17-4, 9-1 Big Ten Conference) on pace with No. 6 Indiana atop the league.
"I think just staying calm. We probably did that a little better at Ohio State than we did today," said guard Caitlin Clark, who nearly had her second straight triple-double with 33 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. "But still, nobody ever thought we were going to lose the lead by any means, and nobody ever panicked at the beginning of the game when we were down 10 points. We know we have the offensive firepower to come back.
"But that's obviously not the situations we want to be in. And we know versus really, really good teams, you can't sustain that. I think it's being able to put together four really good quarters."
A drama-free Iowa victory seemed likely with the traditional home elements in play. Even with snow peppering Iowa City early Saturday morning, there were only empty seats splattered sporadically throughout a buzzing arena. A swift start seemed inevitable.
Only Iowa sputtered from the jump. It took the Hawkeyes more than 15 minutes of real-time to find their first point. A 21-11 Nebraska lead punctuated a tough opening quarter where Iowa never led.
Just as quickly as Iowa fell behind 10, it came surging back to go up 10. The Hawkeyes ripped off a 15-0 second quarter that saw five different players contribute to the scoring as Iowa snatched away momentum en route to a 33-23 advantage.
Clark put on a show during that particular stretch as part of another double-double, draining two deep treys that were the price of admission alone. The second one saw Clark corral a midcourt pass with a behind-the-back save, then swish from the Mediacom Court logo to the delight of the fans.
All of Clark's success arrived despite a 3-for-10 start from the field. Monika Czinano added 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Hannah Stuelke, who saw more minutes with McKenna Warnock (ribcage) sidelined, added 12 points.
"We talked about me going off the dribble more," Stuelke said, "because I'm pretty fast for my size. It worked a lot better than posting them up and trying to go over them."
As if Iowa didn’t get its fill of adversity in the first quarter, Nebraska (12-9, 4-6) brought things back around for some mildly tense moments late. After Iowa rode its second-quarter surge to a 17-point lead after three frames, the Cornhuskers finally woke up again to make things interesting.
Nebraska scored the fourth quarter’s first 12 points to pull within 5 with 7:04 left. The last of which arrived on an Annika Stewart trey — one of just nine 3-pointers the downtown-heavy Huskers hit on 30 attempts. Things seemed under control once Iowa went back up 12 in the fourth, but Nebraska dialed up another 7-0 surge to cut the deficit to 75-70 with a minute remaining. The Huskers got even closer, 77-73, before Clark closed things out at the line.
"Every time you put yourself through something that's difficult, you get better," said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. "We felt like we did that at Michigan State. We played really well against Ohio State. Today, it's not like we played poorly, but we didn't play to our capabilities today. We got out of what we do really well."
Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.