Caitlin Clark registered a 30-point, 10-rebound, 17-assist triple-double, and her No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes made a statement by winning the Big Ten championship game 105-72 over the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes Sunday afternoon at Target Center in Minneapolis.
We’ve seen the Hawkeyes (26-6, 15-3 Big Ten) play 32 games this season. One was a Nov. 17 loss to Kansas State, a team that is part of the “next four out” in ESPN’s bracketology. That one had people questioning if this year’s Hawkeyes would carry over the disappointment of last year’s second-round exit. Another was a 28-point loss to No. 5 Maryland and another that is relevant because it was so recent was an 11-point win (not too impressive) over Purdue (last four in) in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Based on those three games, you could make a case that Iowa is far from invincible. But Sunday was one of the four games this season where they looked like a national championship contender. The other three were their two wins against Maryland (most recently in the Big Ten semis) and their thrilling last-second win over No. 2 Indiana in their regular-season finale.
Sunday has a case to be considered the best Iowa performance of them all. I still believe Ohio State (25-7, 12-6 Big Ten) is closer to the team that was No. 2 most of the season than the team that is currently No. 14, and it was coming off a win over Indiana. And the Hawkeyes completely dominated.
The first half was 61-24 in favor of Iowa. There was a 55-17 run to close the half after Ohio State got off to a 7-6 start. The Hawkeyes kicked it off with a 16-0 run that gave them a 22-7 lead with 1:59 remaining in the opening frame. Iowa led by at least 13 the rest of the way.
Clark highlighted the 16-0 run with a 3-point play followed by a deep three for a 6-0 individual run that brought it to 20-7. She was phenomenal at getting the ball to Monika Czinano all afternoon, including on one over-her-head pass from behind the arc to Czinano on the low block that resulted in a layup early in the fourth quarter. That was particularly impressive because it was over her head, but Clark repeatedly lofted the ball over the defense to right where only Czinano could get it. And Czinano deserves credit for getting into positions where all she need to do was catch and score.
Add a little @CaitlinClark22 x @Mczinano pic.twitter.com/Bqbjy3YxNX— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) March 5, 2023
Molly Davis provided another highlight of the second half when she stretched her arm out to catch a Clark transition pass that was a little too far ahead and then made a layup while falling down.
My goodness Molly, what a catch @CaitlinClark22 x @davismolly14 pic.twitter.com/cAatqDKauu— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) March 5, 2023
Czinano finished with 26 points and seven boards, and was an incredible 11-of-12 from the field. Kate Martin (5-of-6 from the field) added 13 points and three assists, while Sydney Affolter had 11 points and McKenna Warnock had 11 rebounds. Gabbie Marshall’s performance was also special even though she only had nine points, because those points came on a 3-of-3 effort from downtown, continuing her red-hot stretch.
When Marshall made seven threes against Maryland in the semis, she acted like it was business as usual after each one. But in the final, perhaps because the score was far more lopsided, she allowed herself to emphatically celebrate her second and third treys. On the third one, which made it 100-63, she actually bent down in celebration right in front of the Iowa bench before running back on defense.
Marshall’s first triple made it 3-0 one minute and 32 seconds in.
Iowa shot a scorching 62.1 percent from the field as a team; it leads the nation with a field goal percentage of 50.5 on the season. The Hawkeyes were also very good at the line, going 24-of-29 (82.8 percent), and won the battle on the glass 45-29 and points in the paint 52-24.
Cotie McMahon notched 23 points, seven boards, three helpers and four steals in defeat, while Taylor Mikesell paced the Buckeyes with 24 points. Jacy Sheldon was held to one point in 17 minutes.
The Hawkeyes sit as the top No. 2 seed in ESPN’s bracketology, but don’t be surprised if the selection committee feels differently and makes them a No. 1 seed after the way in which they won on Sunday. Ohio State is currently a projected No. 3 seed.