No. 2 seed Iowa women's basketball fights off Purdue in Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals

Dargan Southard
Des Moines Register

MINNEAPOLIS — Funky tends to force its way to the front come tourney time, even with college basketball’s most veteran and predictable squads.

Sometimes your best player goes nearly two quarters without scoring. Sometimes a struggling shooter finds her stroke when you need it most. Sometimes sizable favorites get pesky performances from their underdog foe.

No. 2 seed Iowa women’s basketball encountered all that in Friday’s Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal against seventh-seeded Purdue, hardly expected given the Hawkeyes’ manufactured home-court advantage and strong history against the Boilermakers. The Hawkeyes, however, found enough juice to avoid an early trip home with a 69-58 win in Minneapolis.

Iowa (24-6) advances to Saturday’s 4 p.m. semifinal and will face No. 3 seed Maryland for the second time in two weeks. Conquering the Terrapins will likely require a much smoother offensive effort.

Purdue forward Rickie Woltman, left, knocks the ball away from Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten women's tournament Friday, March 3, 2023, in Minneapolis.

Those in gold who piled into the Target Center eventually got their Caitlin Clark clinic, but not before the national player of the year frontrunner fought through a clunky first half that included her second technical foul of the season.

Clark didn’t score between the first quarter’s 2:14 mark and the third quarter’s 5:25 mark, yet still finished with a game-high 22 points thanks to a massive fourth that eliminated any upset drama. Clark scored 10 points during one three-minute stretch early in the fourth that pushed Iowa’s cushion from eight to a more comfortable 15.

"Sometimes, that's how it goes," Clark said. "All I could do was respond. I knew my team needed me and we needed to create some separation. So it was nice to see those two threes go down for sure. But I think the biggest thing was we got these stops on the defensive end. I got the rebound, and we pushed, and that's how I scored the ball."

Until then, though, Gabbie Marshall was Iowa’s main offensive ignitor. The Cincinnati native, who entered with nine treys in her previous three games after a season’s worth of sputters, poured in 11 points with three crucial threes. Marshall stood as the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer with barely three minutes left in the third quarter. Hometown favorite Monika Czinano added 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting.     

"I think we were really going in and out," Czinano said. "That was really good for us. I just think we were kind of separating ourselves in the way we were really reversing the ball, kind of taking our time, pushing in transition. We were just kind of reverting more back to how we know how to play, setting the tone of the game for ourselves. I think it was nice to just kind of get back into the swing of things."

Iowa guard Gabbie Marshall (24) shoots over Purdue guard Cassidy Hardin (5) during the second half of Friday's Big Ten Tournament game.

It didn’t seem offensive adversity would be a necessary hurdle after Iowa started 6-for-10 from the field and constructed a lead as large as 11 early in the second quarter on back-to-back Marshall treys. Then came a collision with Purdue’s defensive intensity. The Hawkeyes hit just four of their final 18 first-half shots and trudged to the locker room on a field-goal drought of six-plus minutes.

Clark’s second technical foul this season punctuated the Iowa frustration. After not getting the foul call on a drive she thought ended with a smack across the face, Clark was then whistled for her own foul on the defensive end. Chirping after the whistle led to a swift T.

"I was just kind of frustrated, and sometimes your emotions get you," Clark said. "That's what happens. But I think I responded pretty well. It is what it is. That's just how things go sometimes."

To Iowa’s credit, the Hawkeyes didn’t let things spiral all the way into stunner territory. A solid defensive effort throughout limited Purdue (19-10) to 33% from the field and 29% from deep, while forcing 14 turnovers. Other than Jayla Smith's team-high 16 points, no other Boilermaker got loose.

There's always some level of adjustment when the calendar flips to March, and Iowa hopes it got its funky showing out of the way early. The competition is only going to toughen as the Minneapolis days go by.

"Sometimes you have to chalk things up as an anomaly," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said, "and you kind of move on, right? You've just got to forget it and move on — and let's try to come out this second half and play a lot better. I thought we did (in) the fourth quarter."

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.