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Big Ten Women's Championship was everything right with college basketball

Iowa won its third straight title with a 94-89 win over Nebraska.

College basketball's biggest star delivered a performance to remember. Two good teams were playing well and trading blows back and forth. Four quarters of play weren't enough to decide a winner on Sunday. And the announced crowd of 18,534 at Target Center in Minneapolis was electric. 

The Big Ten Women's Championship was everything right with college basketball.

Caitlin Clark, college basketball's all-time leading scorer, shook off a first half in which she scored just four points on 2-for-13 shooting, including an 0-for-9 mark from 3-point range, to lead Iowa back from an 11-point halftime deficit and to a 94-89 overtime victory for the Hawkeyes' third straight Big Ten title. 

"I think in the first half it wasn't always the most fun. It was kind of frustrating at times," Clark said. "I think that was kind of our problem. We weren't really smiling and having fun. The second half we flipped what we were doing, flipped the script, and had a lot more fun. Things started going our way. We were just a lot more patient."

Pick the moment of the game. Maybe it was the 3-pointer Clark drilled with 2 minutes, 7 seconds remaining to cut the Iowa deficit to 75-70. Maybe it was the feed to Kate Martin in the left corner a few moments later for a crucial 3 that made it a 77-75 game. Or perhaps it was the layup Clark made with 29.3 seconds remaining that tied the game at 77-77, a score that stood until the overtime session. 

And that's just in regulation. Clark hit a 3-pointer on offense, got a steal on defense and made two free throws after being intentionally fouled to give the Hawkeyes a 91-87 lead with 37.2 seconds remaining in the extra session. 

In all, Clark finished with 34 points, 30 of which came in the second half and overtime, 12 assists and seven rebounds as she led the Hawkeyes out of the halftime hole. 

It wasn't just Clark that made Sunday's game so special. It was the circumstances leading up to it, it was the incredible environment at Target Center and it was the way the Cornhuskers gave the Hawkeyes a fight they hadn't seen in their first two games of the tournament. Sunday's game was must-see TV. 

Alexis Markowski and Natalię Potts combined for 44 points for the Huskers, quieting the large Iowa contingent in the crowd as Nebraska opened up a 12-point first-quarter lead. Every time it felt like Iowa was about to make a run, Nebraska immediately answered, pushing its lead back to 11 by the halftime break. 

Clark started to find a rhythm in the third quarter, when she poured in 12 points as the Hawkeyes rallied to make it a 58-58 game. The Huskers, however, weren't going to roll over. They battled back to retake a 73-67 lead with 2 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Clark got whistled for an offensive foul on Iowa's possession, and the Hawkeyes faithful in the crowd went silent. 

With so few Nebraska fans among the crowd, it almost felt eerie. 

That was until, of course, the Hawkeyes made their late push, reinvigorating the Target Center crowd. After Clark made her free throws in overtime, the Huskers still made things interesting. Markowski made a layup to make it a 92-89 game, and Iowa's Hannah Stuelke, who had 23 points, missed both free throws on the other end. 

She made both on her next trip to the line. The Huskers had one last chance to get a bucket and make it a game late, but the Hawkeyes locked them up, and Clark got a steal on an inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the court as time expired, with the crowd delivering a loud roar as confetti scattered across the Target Center floor. 

"I have to acknowledge our fans, I mean, they are amazing," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "They show up in (Carver-Hawkeye Arena), they show up here, they show up in Dallas, they show up everywhere, and we are just so thankful for them, and I know I keep saying it, but I cannot express it enough. They give us energy, they give us confidence, when we win, we want to share it with them."

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) celebrates the win after the game against Nebraska at Target Center in Minneapolis on March 10, 2024.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) celebrates the win after the game against Nebraska at Target Center in Minneapolis on March 10, 2024.