It may have been an 8 p.m. local start time on a Tuesday night, but that didn’t stop a sell-out crowd from filling Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They were rewarded with a game to remember, as the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes (14-1, 3-0) survived a challenge from the Michigan State Spartans (11-3, 1-2).
The 76-73 victory was hard-fought, capped off by the heroics from none other than Caitlin Clark. She hit a logo 3-pointer at the buzzer to avoid the potential upset. It was a game in which Clark did most of the scoring and shooting, finishing with 40 points, five assists and a rebound. She fired 34 shots from the field and finished at 13-for-34.
Not to be outdone, Hannah Stuelke finished at 6-for-11 with 15 points, eight boards and three steals. Michigan State had four players with more than 10 shots: Jocelyn Tate at 4-for-10, DeeDee Hagemann at 6-for-11, Moira Joiner 3-for-13 and Julia Ayrault at 7-for-12.
The Spartans played deliberately throughout, starting off the game on an 8-0 run as the Hawkeyes found themselves struggling to score or handle the ball. Then, around the halfway point of the first quarter, the Hawkeyes came back to go on a 14-0 run. From there, it was a fierce back-and-forth battle as both sides were trying to get a grasp on the game. Let alone the ball, as turnovers were prevalent throughout. Though both sides cleaned it up in the second half, the Hawkeyes finished with 13 turnovers and the Spartans with 15.
Down the stretch, it seemed as if the Hawkeyes were on the path to victory, leading by as many as nine before the Spartans went on a surge to eventually tie things up. Then, a sequence in the waning moments helped set the tone for the Hawkeyes. With 42 seconds remaining, Joiner went up for a shot in the lane and Clark was there for an emphatic block. The ball found its way into the hands of Kate Martin, who pushed it in transition before Iowa called a timeout with 34 seconds remaining.
Clark explained the impact of that block—her other highlight moment—as the Spartans were making another run, saying after the game:
We needed a defensive stop obviously. The girl (Joiner) I don’t think saw me at all and she just missed a layup and kind of grabbed her own miss and was about to go up for it. My girl was behind and she had no chance to pass it to her so I kind of just ran in there and volleyball spiked it.
Then, in what can only be characterized as a lucky break, Molly Davis was fouled at the 3-point line with 29 seconds left, giving her three free throws with the game tied at 71. She went 2-for-3 to put the Hawkeyes up 73-71. Davis, who finished the game with eight points and seven rebounds, spoke of what it was like to be in position to change the course of the game and, in her own subtle way, set the stage for what came next, sharing:
Just taking it one free throw at a time. I looked over at Coach Jan (Jensen) and she gave me some good words. Like I said, it was taking one free throw at a time. I missed the first one on purpose.
No. 4 Iowa (14-1, 3-0) will hit the road to take on Rutgers (6-10, 0-3) on Friday, Jan. 5 at 5: p.m. CST.