Monday, July 15, 2024

Caitlin Clark puts Iowa in the Sweet 16

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MA VoepelESPN.com4 minutes to read

Caitlin Clark pulls it off and sprays it on from the logo

Caitlin Clark wasted no time as she buried the deep trio of the crest to bring the Hook closer.

Iowa City, Iowa – Caitlin Clark said it never occurred to her that Iowa was here before.

For nearly a year now, the No. 2 seed hockey teams have been upset at home by the 10th seed in the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

On Sunday, again before a packed crowd at Carver-Hawk Arena, Iowa was in the same place: No. 2 vs. No. 10, the close game in arrears. With a two-point lead with the ball in her hands with less than a minute left, Clarke had one goal.

“I’m not going to let us lose again,” Clark said. “I knew I could go get us a bucket. Sure, there’s pressure…but you wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Clark scored and the Hawkeyes beat Georgia, 74-66, sending Iowa to the Sweet 16 in the Seattle Regional 4, where the Hawkeyes will face the winning team in Monday’s game between Duke and Colorado.

This will be Clark’s second Sweet 16 appearance. The Hawkeyes also made it this far in their freshman season in 2021, when they lost to UConn. Last year, 10th-ranked Creighton beat Iowa 64-62 in the second round en route to the Elite Eight.

That disappointment was a topic the Hawkeyes didn’t shy away from going into on Sunday. Clark recalled that she missed a contested layup with 8 seconds left in that game, one that would have given Iowa a one-point lead.

Against a strong Georgia defense on Sunday, she finished with 22 points and 12 assists, becoming the only women’s player to have at least 20 points in NCAA tournament games and 10 assists, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Through Sunday, Clark scored or assisted on 27 consecutive points. She has scored or assisted 57.99% of her team’s points in the two Hawkeyes tournaments to date.

Her final basket came as she dribbled far down the clock and then got past her defender on a pull jump shot with 47 seconds left in the game. Iowa State put 70-66.

Clark finished her scoring with four free throws: Georgia was called for an intentional foul when Gabe Marshall was hit in the face (Clark took the false shots), then Clark was pushed to the floor for two more.

Clarke was mostly just ignoring the late youth plays; She says she’s used to it now and doesn’t let it bother her. Iowa didn’t have backup quarterback Hannah Stoelke — she sprained her ankle in the final minutes of Saturday’s practice — leaving the Hawkeyes to rely heavily on their experience in the starting five.

With a two-point lead and the ball in her hands with less than a minute remaining, Caitlin Clarke had one goal: “We’ll never lose again. I knew I could go get us a bucket. Sure, there’s pressure…but you wouldn’t want it any other way.”Matthew Holst / Getty Images

These players accounted for all of Iowa’s points: along with Clark’s 22, Monica Czenano had 20, Marshall’s 15, McKenna Warnock’s 14 and Kate Martin’s three.

Clark, who leads Division I per game, now averages 8.6 points along with 26.8 points. I made 115 three-pointers.

“Unbelievable passing. Her vision is incredible. She can sit here and read the plays,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of Clark. “She can see things unfold. She’s a real gift. She’s a lovely passer. It’s not just one or two games, it’s all the time.”

Asked about the last-minute basket, Clarke described it step by step, and said she was glad she had the chance to take it.

“I would never be ashamed of it,” Clark said. “Even if the ball doesn’t go down, I want to be the one with the ball in my hands. I know I can do it for this team.”

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