Skip to main content

Iowa had its offensive struggles in its first game in the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament.

And the second-seeded Hawkeyes still won 95-62 over Penn State on Friday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

By the end of the day, Iowa was the highest seeded team remaining in the tournament after No. 1 seed Ohio State and No. 3 seed Indiana fell in two of the other quarterfinals.

“You kind of have to worry about what's in your circle, and everybody else doesn't matter,” said guard Caitlin Clark, who struggled to make shots and still scored 24 points and had 10 rebounds. “You take it one game at a time. Obviously our focus has been on Penn State, and we'll move on to the next game that's about to start. But I think our group is old enough and wise enough to know that you'd better come ready to play because people are fighting for their lives right now.”

The Hawkeyes, who will play sixth seed Michigan in Saturday’s semifinals, never let Penn State have any upset hopes. Iowa led 31-13 after one quarter, and closed the game with a 30-14 fourth quarter.

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder understands how it goes in these conference tournament situations, that a team that has already had a game on the court can have an advantage over teams who had byes.

“You're just more comfortable, right? Kind of got that tournament jitters over,” Bluder said. “So we talked about it, and our team just feels so good about playing here and playing in the tournament. Like Caitlin said, I think the experience of this team really, really shines in these types of situations.”

Clark was just 5 of 19 shooting for the game.

“Honestly, I think as a shooter, like sometimes you can feel it was off, and honestly a lot of my shots I felt were right there, and I think that's the most positive thing,” Clark said. “A lot of them I thought were going in, sometimes a little short, sometimes a little long.

“I thought I could have probably gotten to the basket a little bit more. Honestly, they were packing the paint really hard. They were gapping really, really well.”

“It's funny, Caitlin has an off night, and how many people would say you have an off night when you have 24 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists?” Bluder said. “But it was an off night for Caitlin. And I'm just so glad that her teammates picked up the slack in that area. It just gives us so much more confidence moving forward. It makes us so much harder to guard when we play like we did tonight.”

The rest of the takeaways from Friday’s win:

AFFOLTER’S BIG START: Sydney Affolter moved into the starting lineup for the Hawkeyes in place of Molly Davis, and had one of the best games of her career.

Affolter had 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes, going 5-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-4 in 3-pointers.

It was part of a committee of players to replace Davis. Taylor McCabe had 12 points in 15 minutes. Kylie Feuerbach had five points.

“I thought Taylor went in and played extremely well, whether she's playing point guard, off guard, small forward,” Bluder said. “She was doing anything for us. Syd, I thought, played tremendous. Kylie went in and did some great things, had some great takes at the basket, hit a three for us. So I'm pleased with what they did, but we're going to have to continue that, sure.”

GABBIE’S MOMENTUM: Gabbie Marshall has always seemed to respond in March, and this game was a good first step for a guard who has struggled to make shots this season.

Marshall had 15 points, going 5-of-8 from the field, 4-of-7 in 3-pointers.

“I think I just really like the month of March,” Marshall joked. “No, I don't know. You always wake up wanting to shoot it well or play good for your team, but I think just the feels that this Big Ten tournament brings, I think it just brings a lot of energy and kind of nerves and anxiousness.

“We're just so excited to get out there and play. I always want to make shots for my team. So I'm always going in thinking I'm going to make them.”

MORE CLARK HISTORY: Clark was just 2-of-14 in 3-pointers, but still made NCAA history.

Clark has 164 3-pointers for the season, passing the NCAA record of 162 set by Steph Curry.

Bluder liked how the Hawkeyes responded with Clark’s struggles.

“I think that's the best thing for us is to have a game like this, quite honestly, because now these guys all have great confidence,” she said. “They have more belief in themselves and each other. If Caitlin has a bad night, OK, we can still survive that. I think it's a good thing that happened tonight.”

GLUE WORK: Kate Martin has plenty of postseason experience in her long career with the Hawkeyes, and she came through with another solid performance.

Martin had 11 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes, a steadying presence on both ends of the court as Iowa struggled in the first half to get points.