After experiencing a brief cancellation of the game due to COVID-19 and losing to Duke for the first time this season, the Iowa Hawkeyes returned home with a new sense of mission as they competed with their top ten rival Michigan State University in California. Buddha started the meeting at the Eagle Eye Arena.
Entering this game, head coach Lisa Bruder needs to take the lead, win the 800th career, and formally join the elite class of legendary coaches.
The Spartans’ offensive and passing skills have been quite recognized. They ranked first in the United States with 181 assists and first in the top ten leagues, and ranked fourth in the United States in assists per game, averaging 20.1 per game. Their veteran guard Nia Clouden ranks third in the Big Ten with 19.6 points per game and 27th in the country.
So it’s safe to say that the Hawkeyes also have a dynamic offense led by second-year genius Caitlin Clark, and their work has been cut.
From the beginning, it was clear that the two teams were evenly matched. Most of the first quarter was a continuous back-and-forth fight, but the Hawkeyes managed to lead by as much as eight points.
All along, Clark has achieved her status as a genius with an extraordinary start. She scored 10 of the team’s first 16 points.
However, she did get two fouls, so Iowa had to carefully use her to move forward.
Nevertheless, the Hawkeyes’ offense did a good job of passing the ball into the paint and finding Monica Zinano’s open performance, ending the first quarter 20-14.
In the second quarter, the Hawkeyes made a brief rollover and extended their lead to 10 points.
But the Hawkeyes did sometimes miss an easy shot and did not return to the defensive transition, which allowed the Spartans to win back one city and eventually reduced the Hawkeyes’ lead to two points.
Nia Clouden’s outstanding performance made the Spartans within reach. She scored a team-high 14 points in the first half.
At the end of the first half, the Hawkeyes led 39-37.
With the start of the third quarter, the Hawkeyes returned to their best form and found Czinano and junior guard/forward McKenna Warnock in the paint.
They were also explosives on the outside line, bringing the energy and fever they lacked in the second quarter, and Carver’s crowd caught it. In addition, the Spartans also showed signs of fatigue.
Haweyes once extended the lead to 16 points, and Bluder is moving towards this magic number.
Warnock performed very well on the perimeter and in the paint. She led the team to a 20-point lead at the end of the third quarter. Czinano pushed the ball down in the paint and on the backboard.
The fourth quarter was just a game until the final whistle.
In the end, Clark scored a triple-double with 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Warnock had 21 points and 6 rebounds, and Zenano had 19 points and 7 rebounds.
The Hawkeyes won 88-61 and Bruder consolidated her position in history.
She joined a special class that included Pat Summitt, Vivian Stringer, Geno Auriemma and others.
Later, she summarized her feelings of joining this outstanding group with grace and humility.
“Blessed,” she said. “You are very fortunate to have been in this industry for so long. …For my 22nd year in Iowa, I am very lucky.”
Given the adversity that her team had to overcome in the past few weeks, Clark also expressed excitement of achieving this milestone and winning in such a powerful way at home.
“It’s always nice to go back to your home court and stand in front of your fans, they are great and support us,” she said. “We are the kind of team that knows what we have to do.”
The Hawkeyes hit their neighbor, No. 14 Iowa, on the road at 7pm EST on Wednesday.