Fourth-ranked Iowa women pound Cleveland State 104-75 in Hawkeye Showcase in Des Moines
Dowling Catholic graduate Caitlin Clark scores 38 points in front of hometown fans
By Susan Harman
DES MOINES, Iowa – The big crowd at Wells Fargo Arena came to see the Iowa women’s basketball team and the magician that is Caitlin Clark. They got everything they wanted.
Clark, hometown hero and star of stars in college women’s basketball, made a 3-pointer to start the game and never stopped delivering in a 104-75 victory over Cleveland State.
She finished with 38 points. She dropped in nine 3-pointers, tying her career high, including three in the final quarter that were launched from Altoona.
“It was really special,” Clark said. “This is probably the game that was circled on the calendar for myself. I was just really excited to come back here. I was thankful that I was able to come back here and play in front of a lot of family and friends.”
In response the full house (14,786) was noticeably wired. The noise level was high all game regardless of the score. The decibel level went up for every 3-pointer, and when Clark exited the game with 5:21 left she got a heart-felt standing ovation.
“I thought we played really well,” Clark said. “It’s just really exciting. I had chills when we ran out of the tunnel. It’s just cool to see how people support us.”
Clark made 13-of-21 shots, 9-of-16 3-pointers and all three of her foul shots. She recalled coming to the building throughout her childhood to see the various teams that call the Well home.
“I just love this place,” Clark said. “And it’s cool to be able to be a kid that grew up coming to games here…and now I have the opportunity to play here in college.”
Iowa combined to make 34-of-67 (.507) shots from the field and 10-of-31 threes. Molly Davis made the only non-Clark three for Iowa.
“It was probably my best shooting performance I’ve had at Wells Fargo Arena,” Clark said. “I don’t remember too many great ones previously.” Clark was referring to her Dowling team that lost the last time she played here in the state tournament as a junior in high school
“Anytime you play zone defense, which we don’t really see hardly ever, you should be able to get good looks from three, and I thought we did a really good job of getting the ball into the high posts and then our shooters were able to spot up,” she said.
Clark’s 38 points sent her past Iowa State’s Ashley Joens into ninth place on the NCAA all-time scoring list.
Hannah Stuelke proved she is healthy and ready to do her thing in the paint. She had a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds in 17 minutes of play. Six of her rebounds were on the offensive end, and Iowa scored 20 second-chance points in the game.
“I think it was a lot of fun playing out there,” she said. “I like to play happy. Yeah, I thought I was back to myself, and it was a lot of fun.
“I think it just kind of comes to me. The ball was bouncing in my favor tonight.”
Stuelke made 5-of-6 free throws to continue her improvement from a year ago. She is shooting .769 from the foul line, one of the best on the team.
“I think it’s just been confidence,” she said. “Getting extra reps in have really been important. Even in high school I wasn’t a great free-throw shooter. But just building confidence, getting those reps have been really important.”
Iowa had its second-best free-throw shooting night of the season making 26 of 28 (.929).
Iowa was a plus-28 in rebound margin. Center Sharon Goodman had 10 rebounds and scored eight points. Iowa was a plus-22 in points in the paint.
“I thought our offensive rebounding was just outstanding,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “And we scored 104 points without even shooting that exceptional from 3-point range. We have a lot of other people who can hit threes. I am very happy with the way we dissected the zone. I thought we did a really good job of hitting cutters, making high-percentage shots and we had 44 paint points against a zone defense. That’s kind of hard to do.”
Bluder’s only real complaint was the number of turnovers (19). “We took some risky passes tonight that we probably didn’t need,” she said. “Kind of got excited there, and that made for a few. Defensively I’ve been happy with our progress this year.”
Iowa had several runs during the game of eight or 10 consecutive scoring possessions. The Vikings were physical and scrappy but just couldn’t stop the scoring onslaught. They finished with four players in double figures led by McKayla Perdue’s 24 points and 18 from Colbi Maples.
Stuelke was asked about the environment and the response to Clark Saturday night.
“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “I just love her a lot. So just seeing that other people do too.. And she’s an amazing basketball player. I think it’s awesome that they’re supporting her and supporting us because of her.”