Due to an impending snowstorm, the No. 13 Iowa Hawkeyes took to the court earlier than expected against the Big Green of Dartmouth in their last game before the Christmas holiday. While the game itself was inconsequential in the big picture, it was a chance for the Hawkeyes to go into the holiday break on a high note. Coming in, they were on a four-game winning streak dating back to Dec. 4. Even with weather-related scheduling changes that usually can run the risk of disrupting usual patterns of preparation and play, they were destined to make it five.
From the start, the Hawkeyes quickly got on a run courtesy of McKenna Warnock, who scored the first seven points of the game within the first two minutes of play. Their defense also forced Dartmouth into a state of chaos as they committed four turnovers right off the bat and only scored one basket. The Iowa offense looked inside for the most part early on and who better than Monika Czinano to give them six points in the paint.
With 6:23 left in the first, the Hawkeyes were well ahead at 16-2.
When play resumed, Iowa continued to outrun and outgun Dartmouth at both ends of the floor. They added six additional points, which included four from Czinano inside and then the first from Caitlin Clark on a fast break run.
At the three-minute mark of the first, the Hawkeyes were already ahead by 20 points, 26-6.
They quickly put their bench players to work and given the sizable lead they established, they were expected to be given a considerable amount of playing time. As the seconds ticked away in the first, the Hawkeyes were in total command and Dartmouth was never able to come close.
With 23 seconds left in the opening frame, Warnock hit her second three of the game, giving her 10 points to match Czinano. Meanwhile, Clark settled with only a single basket and at the end of the first; the Hawkyes led 34-19.
In the second quarter, the Hawkeyes continued to surge and Clark came alive in the biggest way possible. She scored when she had the chance and being the playmaker that she is, was willing to give her teammates their chance to shine. Whether against a major rival or low-key opponent, she leads by example.
Then, at the 7:45 mark, Clark not only hit her first three to make it 45-19, but she captured her 2,000th career point. When time was called, she went back to the bench and was surrounded with love and appreciation from her teammates and head coach Lisa Bluder. The Hawkeye faithful in attendance gave her a standing ovation in acknowledgment of an already legendary career that is continuing to grow in stature.
Caitlin Clark tied Elena Delle Donne as the fastest players to reach 2,000 career points in the fewest games (75) in men's or women's DI basketball since at least 1999-00 #ThatsaW pic.twitter.com/K4ypYI1UdW— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 21, 2022
The bench came in and took over for the majority of the remaining minutes of the quarter, as the starters took a well-deserved rest. Taylor McCabe, Sydney Affolter and Hannah Stuelke combined for 10 points in the first half. They helped push the tempo as they continued to run the floor in transition, leading to some easy baskets.
The Hawkeyes steamrolled their way to a 54-24 lead going into the locker room.
After Clark’s historic milestone, the last two quarters of the game were anticipated to be largely anticlimactic. It was never a question of whether or not the Hawkeyes would win but if there would be any additional moments of excitement. The hope was that Czinano would join Clark in that illustrious club, as she was 21 points away from 2,000.
At the start of the third, Czinano scored on a jumper in the corner, fittingly off a feed from Clark, to make it 56-24 and put her 19 points away.
It was highly unlikely that she would achieve history in this game given the circumstances, but hope still remained.
Throughout the entirety of the quarter, the Hawkeyes were hovering around a 30-point lead. It was as if Dartmouth was trying its hardest to ensure the deficit wouldn’t continue to grow, but that the Hawkeyes were still playing their game to the fullest. They never took their lead for granted as they hustled rather than settled.
The same held true for the fourth quarter and when all was said and done, the Hawkeyes, as expected, captured their fifth consecutive win. It came in dominating fashion, 92-56, and while there were obvious stars, it was a team effort through and through.
Clark had 20 points, six assists and 10 rebounds. Czinano had 20 points, one assist, and four rebounds. Warnock had 14 points, two assists, and three rebounds. Molly Davis had eight points and one assist. Kate Martin had four points, 13 assists, and three rebounds.
Afterwards, Clark spoke to some of the things that the team and specifically she could improve on after the break.
“I think personally six turnovers is not going to cut it for myself, but I think as a team 16 isn’t really a great number either,” she said. “I think we can be a lot better in that area. I felt like we gave up too many O boards in the first half and we didn’t get enough ourselves. That was kind of a focal point at halftime. We can get more O boards, those are extra possessions for us, we need those. So I think those two things and obviously I think on defense we can still improve quite a bit.”
Czinano, who is 11 points away from 2,000, talked about what it’s like to be knocking on the door of history.
“It’s really crazy,” she said. I remember Megan (Gustafson) sometime around my freshman year, I thought to myself nobody does that ever. To be going into that and seeing Caitlin accomplish that is so cool and so special. Just to be here at this program doing that and being able to help the team out in that way is a huge honor.”
Iowa (10-3) will be back at home to take on Purdue on Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. CST.