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How Creighton advanced to its first Sweet 16 in program history

The Bluejays shut down Caitlin Clark and the top offense in Division I to pull off a monumental upset.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 20 Div I Women’s Championship - Second Round - Creighton at Iowa

A sell-out crowd of 14,382 filled Carver-Hawkeye Arena to see their Iowa Hawkeyes on to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive tournament.

Instead, it was a former Hawkeye who stole the show, as Iowa transfer Lauren Jensen hit the game-winner while sending No. 10 Creighton to its first Sweet 16 in program history. With her Bluejays trailing by four with 4:42 to play, Jensen scored Creighton’s next nine points, capped by the game-winning 3-pointer to send Caitlin Clark, Monika Czinano, and the Hawkeyes home early in a 64-62 victory. ncaa

Jensen saved the Bluejays in the fourth quarter after Creighton nearly gave away a game it led for nearly 29 minutes. The No. 10 seed came out hot, ready to take control from long range. Of their 19 field-goal attempts in the first quarter, 15 were from long range, as the Bluejays attempted to drive and kick Iowa into submission. Creighton had eight made threes in the first half, resulting in a six-point lead at the break.

Those triples stopped falling in the second half, but the Bluejays stuck with their read-and-react principles, trusting that their team offense could break a middling Iowa defense. Combined with an absolute assault on the offensive glass, Creighton was the far more effective team in the half court. The Bluejays had a 15-8 advantage on offensive boards, leading to a 19-8 margin on second-chance points.

But the game wasn’t won on offense. The Hawkeyes came into the game with the leading scorer in the country and the nation’s best offensive rating, per Her Hoop Stats. Iowa was averaging 84.2 points per game and dropped 98 in the first round, and the over/under was set at 158.5. Creighton needed to shut down Clark and Co. to have a chance, and that’s what the Bluejays did.

They started with the head of the snake, showing bodies whenever Clark turned the corner and being physical with her on drives. Clark could barely find space on the perimeter for her jumper, so she had to force some shots. She was never able to find a rhythm and had some uncharacteristic misses late in a 4-of-19 performance from the field, and 3-of-10 from beyond the arc.

Clark’s running mate Monika Czinano came to play, using deep seals to clear out space to work in the post. The Creighton defense clearly made Clark the priority, and Czinano took advantage. She led all scorers with 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting, as she consistently got to her left hand on her way to the basket.

The problem for Czinano was that she had to bear a heavy load, especially early. The Hawkeyes outscored the Bluejays by eight points in Czinano’s 31 minutes but lost by 10 when she was off the court with no one else to share the offensive burden with Clark. The non-Clark/Czinano Hawkeyes didn’t score for the first 15 minutes, and Iowa was already down by 12 when Kate Martin finally cashed in.

It looked like the Hawkeyes might be able to overcome that slow start, as Creighton started to break down in the fourth quarter. The non-Jensen Bluejays shot 1-of-10 from the field, missing all three of their three-point attempts. Meanwhile Gabbie Marshall had her only six points of the game in the period to help Iowa pull ahead 58-54.

That’s when Jensen took over. Clark and Czinano didn’t scratch the rest of the way, despite getting some good looks. Clark had a clean stepback three and Czinano had a couple of opportunities right at the rim that came up short, a fitting metaphor for their overall effort in the second round.

Creighton also tired the Hawkeyes out with its offense. The Bluejays spread the floor, forcing Czinano to defend in space. That resulted in multiple layup chances late as the Iowa help never got to the basket, and Jensen got Czinano on a switch on the game-winning three, calmly converting as the Iowa center was slow to close out.

Coach Jim Flanery’s team was prepared to earn a trip to the Sweet 16, and they executed down the stretch to earn the biggest upset (in terms of seeding) of the tournament to date. In the process, the Bluejays held Iowa to its lowest point total of the last two seasons, its lowest total at home since 2016, creating an unforgettable March Madness moment for Jensen and Creighton.