116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — About the same time the calendar flipped, Caitlin Clark’s game shifted.
From December to January; from second gear to overdrive.
Iowa’s dynamic sophomore guard, Clark has rejoined the women’s basketball national-player-of-the-year discussion with a recent six-game tour de force.
Here’s what she has been up to lately:
An average of 32.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 9.2 assists, which has included back-to-back triple-doubles.
A field-goal rate of 52.4 percent (it was 38.3 percent in the first nine games). An assist-to-turnover count of 2.50-to-1 (it was 1.71-to-1 before the holidays).
“When you start playing good competition, it brings out the best in a competitor,” said Clark, who certainly fits that bill.
Clark’s statistical surge has coincided with the 25th-ranked Hawkeyes’ four-game winning streak, which has included road wins at Nebraska, Purdue and Minnesota.
She is the only player in NCAA women’s basketball history to notch back-to-back triple-doubles in which more than 30 points were scored in both games.
Last Sunday, she recorded 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as Iowa overcame an early 16-point deficit and beat Nebraska, 93-83, at home.
Then on Thursday, it was 35, 13 and 11 as Iowa destroyed Minnesota, 105-49, at Minneapolis.
After saying, “I’m still trying to take this all in,” in the Minnesota postgame, Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder followed with, “Caitlin showed why she is one of the most special, exciting players in America.”
Perhaps the most promising aspect for Clark at Minnesota was her 3-point shooting — 4 of 6. She came into the game shooting from 22.7 percent from distance.
“I’m the type that’s going to keep shooting,” Clark said. “All six of them were really good looks. I got my toes to the line, and it was good to see some of them go down.”
Iowa (11-4 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) will be heavily favored to extend its winning streak Sunday against Illinois (6-10, 1-4). Tipoff is 5 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Illini were a late replacement on the Sunday menu after No. 6 Indiana was forced to bow out due to COVID-19 issues around the Hoosiers’ program.
Bluder indicated mid-week that she and Barbara Burke — Iowa deputy director or athletics and senior women’s administrator — had been searching for a Sunday opponent. And early Friday morning, the university released that Illinois would be coming to town.
Illinois originally was slated to play at Carver on Jan. 2, but that fell through to COVID and was rescheduled for Feb. 12, then bumped up to Sunday.
The Illini’s last win at Carver was during the 2006-07 season, and the Hawkeyes have won 18 of the last 21 games in the series.