Clark scores 41 to lead Iowa past Huskers in Big Ten semis as NU seeks to ‘learn some lessons from today’ | Women’s Basketball

DAVID CHEN SONG For the Journal Star

INDIANAPOLIS — The Nebraska women’s basketball team was one of the final four teams standing in this week’s Big Ten Tournament.

Caitlin Clark, however, stood in the way.

The national star and Big Ten player of the year scored 41 points — fourth most by any player in a Big Ten Tournament game — added nine rebounds and three steals to power No. 12 Iowa to an 83-66 win against the Huskers in the tournament semifinals Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Monika Czinano notched 22 points while Kate Martin had eight points and a game-high 11 boards for the Hawkeyes, who will play Indiana in Sunday’s championship game.

“We came here to win a conference championship, so anything short of that, we were going to be heartbroken,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said. “But in the same token, I’m really, really proud of this group and I told them in the locker room: if we can learn some lessons from today … then we feel like we can make a run at the (NCAA Tournament) .”

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Iowa wields the Big Ten’s highest-scoring offense (84.9 points per game) and is one of four women’s teams in America averaging 80 or more points per contest. Nebraska’s fourth-ranked defense (63.6 points allowed per game) could not keep pace, allowing Iowa to shoot 52% (31-of-60) from the field. The Huskers, meanwhile, were just 35% (26-of-74) from the floor.

Iowa (22-7) won all three meetings with Nebraska (24-8) this year — the first two came over an eight-day span in January.

Sophomore forward Isabelle Bourne was the best Husker on the floor in the first half. She opened the scoring before Kate Martin and Czinano fueled an early 6-0 Hawkeye run. Bourne and junior guard Sam Haiby combined for Nebraska’s first 12 points of the game.

Both teams experienced an offensive slump midway through the first quarter, going 1-of-8 for a stretch, but the Huskers ended that period up 20-17.

Iowa outscored Nebraska 21-15 in the second quarter. Each team had eight points through the first five minutes of that frame, but the Hawkeyes went on a 10-0 run and Clark put them up two with a deep ball at the 3:30 mark. A driving layup by sophomore guard Jaz Shelley restored the Husker lead, but only momentarily as late buckets from Czinano helped Iowa get to halftime up 38-35.

Neither team was efficient in the first half, with Nebraska shooting 33% (14-of-43) and Iowa operating at 39% (13-of-33).

The Hawkeyes gained steam in the third quarter. Czinano scored three consecutive post layups, and a Clark jumper pushed Iowa to a seven-point advantage. Shelley hit a much-needed deep ball at 3:12, but it wasn’t enough. The Hawkeyes outscored Nebraska 28-18 in the third frame, and Clark drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to put Iowa up 66-53.

“When Iowa went on a little run there in the third quarter, we lost our focus just a little bit,” Williams said. “Offensively, we kind of started to go make plays one-on-one instead of executing as a team, so I think that’s something we can really learn from.”

Clark didn’t miss a beat going into the final period, scoring Iowa’s first seven points of the fourth. The Hawkeyes cruised to victory from there.

Bourne led Nebraska with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while Shelley and Haiby added 15 apiece. Big Ten freshman of the year Alexis Markowski finished with seven points on 2-of-9 from the floor, leading all Huskers with nine boards.

Nebraska must wait another year to try for the second Big Ten title in program history. The Huskers, though, turn their focus to the NCAA Tournament.

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