The No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes came into their home opener against the New Hampshire Wildcats with higher expectations than they had anticipated.
Coming off last year where they surprised everyone by making it to the Big Ten championship game along with a Sweet 16 appearance, the Hawkeyes are not only looking to meet those expectations, but they have the talent to do just that.
Many core players have returned including sophomore guard Caitlin Clark who last year averaged 26.6 points per game, dished out 214 assists and received All American honors from the WBCA, USBWA, and The Athletic.
In addition, returning senior forward/center Monika Czinano led the country in shooting percentage at 66.8 and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors.
Under the leadership of coach Lisa Bluder, who has guided the team to 12 consecutive 20-win seasons, the Hawkeyes have all the tools to make some magic and the fans got a good glimpse at what is to come.
Right from the start, the Hawkeyes were superb and led 31-11 at the end of the 1st quarter.
Their offense was lights out in the first half as they shot 57 percent from the field at 16-of-28 and outscored the Wildcats on fast breaks 15-4, points in the paint 18-10, and second chance points 11-4.
The defense showed promise at the beginning but then slagged at bit in the second quarter as the Wildcats started to make small inroads in that double-digit deficit. There has been discussion that Iowa’s defense has to step up its game to match the team’s explosive offense.
But whatever deficits the Hawkeyes have to make up on that end, it helps to have Caitlin Clark to make things easier. She ended the first half with 17 points, four assists and four rebounds and shot 60 percent from the 3-point line, solidifying that she is the consummate playmaker.
Czinano was the go-to person in the paint where she was 4-of-4 from the field and also grabbed four rebounds.
Whatever ground the Wildcats gained in the second quarter was not enough to offset the overall talent of the Hawkeyes in the second half.
Another contributing factor to Iowa’s dominance was that they were 27-of-28 (96.4 percent) from the free throw line, which goes to show the value of free throws when it comes to winning games.
In the end, the Hawkeyes steamrolled their way to a 93-50 win.
The victory continued a notable winning streak for Bluder:
Afterwards, Clark, who scored 26 points, dished out six assists and grabbed eight rebounds, spoke of the rejuvenation process for a team that will be back on the floor in just 48 hours to face Samford.
“Hot tubs and cold tubs are gonna be our friends” she said.
“I think more than anything it is going to be mental preparation. Obviously going over their scouting report and knowing their play calls. It is more mental than physical.”
The Hawkeyes take on Samford on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.