By Laura Vázquez David | @lauravazquezpr
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – The understated excellence of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, the 2022 Big Ten Player of the Year, reached another level on Friday night. She responded to the latest challenge of her sophomore season with a once-in-a-generation display of versatility.
Clark led the Hawkeyes to a 72-59 victory over Northwestern in a quarterfinal of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament by scoring 19 points with five 3-point shots, 12 rebounds, six assists, and three blocked shots.
According to the Twitter feed @StatsBySTATS, cited by the Big Ten Network, Clark became the first Division I player – male or female – to record those statistics in a game in 20 years.
Iowa (21-7) will face sixth-seeded Nebraska, which defeated Michigan, for a spot in the conference title game for the second consecutive season. The Cornhuskers reached their first Big Ten semifinal since 2018.
The Hawkeyes were challenged by Northwestern’s Veronica Burton, the three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Clark’s ability to adjust, adapt and rely on her teammates became an important part of Iowa’s victory.
“I think she’s been getting double teamed all year long, lots of help, so it’s nothing unusual,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. “And I was really glad that she calmed down…. In the second half she just decided to rebound and distribute the ball. So she doesn’t always only have to be the scorer.”
Iowa’s endurance and work in the paint secured their spot in the semifinals. The second-seeded Hawkeyes scored 38 points – 52.8% of their scoring — in the paint.
Iowa’s Monika Czinano, a 6-foot-3 senior center, scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting in her 17th game with 20 or more points this season. Junior guard Kate Martin scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and had six assists. When the Northwestern defense concentrated on Clark, there was always a Hawkeye shooter ready to make the play.
“That’s when we’re really good,” Clark said, “when everybody’s scoring and contributing. Just because we are so hard to guard…five people on the court are all a threat.”
The Hawkeyes scored 25 points in the third quarter, 16 from the paint. Czinano scored seven of those.
“The first half was to get used to it, get a feel of the court,” said Czinano. “We were expecting to need a little time to figure it all out but once we get into the swing of things, boy is it fun. And that’s what happened in the third quarter.”
Bluder attributed Iowa’s success to “how we controlled the paint tonight with paint points…. I thought Kate Martin was the different maker for us tonight.”
Northwestern (17-12) was led by Burton, who scored 25 points, the most since she scored 27 at Minnesota on February 11. Burton had three steals for a total of 117, the seventh-highest single-season total in Big Ten history.
Before the game, the Northwestern players knelt during the National Anthem.
“There’s so many things that are just bigger than basketball,” said Northwestern graduate student Lauryn Satterwhite.
“It’s our way of showing what we stand for and what we value,” Burton said.