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Recap: 30 30s for Caitlin Clark as No. 7 Iowa clinches double bye in Big Ten Tournament

Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes has now scored 30-plus points in 30 games.

Syndication: HawkCentral
Caitlin Clark
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Caitlin Clark recorded her 30th career 30-point game and her No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes steered a game that could have been a nail-biter into an 80-60 Big Ten Tournament-double-bye-clinching win with a strong second half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers Saturday afternoon at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.

The Hawkeyes (22-5, 14-2 Big Ten) took their lead from seven to 14 with a 21-14 third-quarter advantage and opened the fourth quarter on a 17-2 run in front of a Nebraska-program-record 14,289 fans. Twenty-nine ended as their largest lead of the contest.

Clark finished with 30 points, five rebounds and eight assists, while co-star Monika Czinano added 20 points (10-of-13 from the field) and seven boards. Kate Martin rounded out the winners’ double-figure scorers with 10 points to go along with her six helpers.

Husker Isabelle Bourne opened the second half with a three that cut her team’s deficit to 40-36, but Iowa answered with a 7-0 run and led by at least nine the rest of the way. Martin made a layup, Czinano connected from mid-range on the right baseline and Clark buried a deep three to bring it to 47-36.

An Annika Stewart steal led to a high-arcing Jaz Shelley floater that cut it to 61-49 one minute and eight seconds into the fourth, but the Hawkeyes followed with the game’s next 17 points. After scores from Czinano and Clark opened the run, Clark used a spin move before finishing with a short bank shot that rolled around and in for a 67-49 lead. Back-to-back threes from Martin and McKenna Warnock then made it 73-49 and freshman Taylor McCabe capped the run with a trey of her own from the left corner at 3:12 remaining.

Nebraska (14-13, 6-10 Big Ten) answered with back-to-back-to-back threes from Shelley, Maddie Krull and Shelley to cut it to 20, but would get no closer the rest of the way.

Shelley finished with a Husker-high 19 points to go along with nine rebounds and four assists after dropping a career-high 37 points on Minnesota on Wednesday. She leads her team with 13.5 points and 6.4 assists per game. Alexis Markowski (12.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game) added 15 points and nine boards on Saturday.

Nebraska, which defeated No. 8 Maryland by 23 on Dec. 4 and was the first team out of ESPN’s Feb. 17 Bracketology, played a good first half, tying it at 31 on a Bourne triple at the 4:40 mark of the second quarter. The Hawkeyes closed that frame on a 9-2 run, but it was an even quarter overall at 19-19. Markowski went on a 5-0 individual run to cut it to 21-19 at the 8:41 mark and scored inside to cut it to 23-21 at 7:52. A Gabbie Marshall transition three put Iowa up 29-23 at 6:53 before Shelley answered with a deep triple at 6:26. A Shelley layup then cut it to 29-28, but Clark sped up the court for a layup just five seconds later.

The Hawkeyes opened the contest on a 7-0 run with a three from Clark and back-to-back layups from Czinano. Shelley free throws at the 4:35 mark of the opening frame cut it to 11-9, but Clark answered with a catch-and-shoot three from the left corner and an assist to Hannah Stuelke in transition. Markowski cut it to 18-14 with an inside make at 47 seconds remaining before the second, but Marshall closed the first’s scoring with a right-corner three that made it 21-14. Marshall finished 2-of-2 from downtown.

Clark was the only one to attempt free throws for Iowa, going 6-of-7. The Hawkeyes won field goal percentage 54.2 to 34.4 and 3-point percentage 50 (10-of-20) to 21.2 (7-of-33). They won despite being outrebounded on the offensive glass 15-5 and losing second-chance points 12-4.

Iowa was a No. 2 seed in ESPN’s Feb. 17 Bracketology.