After experiencing a heartbreaking loss to unranked but surging Illinois to kick off the New Year, the No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes (12-4, 2-1 Big Ten) traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan and came away with a crucial 94-85 win over the No. 14 Wolverines (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten) before the first viewing audience to watch a Big Ten women’s basketball game on Fox. It’s a victory that keeps them in good standing in a fiercely competitive Big Ten that is up for grabs.
After a back-and-forth battle in the beginning stages, the Hawkeyes got it going during the second and third quarters, outscoring the Wolverines 48-37. In the last minute of the game, Michigan started to make some inroads with some big shots that quickly cut the Hawkeyes’ 10-point lead to five. But Iowa held on and its win was due in large part to some stellar offensive performances by four of its starters.
Of course, Caitlin Clark was on mark and ended with a game-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists. Monika Czinano was a major contributor as well, notching 19 points, a game-high eight assists and five rebounds. Also, McKenna Warnock continued to be on a roll as she finished with 14 points and five rebounds. Kate Martin played solid with 10 points, two rebounds and one assist.
Another major factor in the Hawkeyes’ win was their bench. In a combined 32 minutes of play, Molly Davis and Hannah Stuelke took the load off the starters and did so with effectiveness. Throughout this season, Stuelke has demonstrated herself to be a prominent figure in the paint and on the boards. She scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds. Davis has shown signs that she is a playmaker in the making who has the ability to score with effectiveness and get others involved. She finished with eight points and dished out four assists.
This victory was a prime example of Iowa playing at its best when everyone gets involved. It also demonstrates that it is a team that is completely aware of the expectations that have been placed upon it since the start of the season and that it is up for the challenge.
As Iowa anticipates a slight boost in the national rankings, this win comes at a critical time. The Hawkeyes’ next two games against Northwestern and Penn State are expected to be fairly easy, but things will become more challenging after that.
If they play the way they did against Michigan and do so as a team, they will continue to remain in good shape and be in a position to hold on to that coveted title of conference champions.
This upcoming Wednesday, Iowa will be back at home to take on Northwestern (6-8, 0-4) at 6:30 p.m. CST.