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At ‘Carver North,’ this Big Ten tournament title is especially sweet for Iowa women’s basketball
Iowa fans flocked to Target Center all week, capped by a tournament attendance record of 9,505 for Sunday’s championship game
MINNEAPOLIS — Most of this Iowa women’s basketball team had experienced this feeling a year earlier — cutting down the nets on an Indianapolis neutral court after three wins in three days for a Big Ten tournament championship.
These five starters had experienced celebrating sharing a league title with their home fans after last season’s win over Michigan at a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Sunday at Target Center, those two 2022 experiences converged.
Surrounded by Iowa fans who filled the arena’s lower bowl to produce a tournament attendance record of 9,505, the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes did their part to keep the volume turned up. The team set a tournament record of its own with 105 points in a 33-point rout of No. 14 Ohio State for a championship repeat.
Neutral court, home crowd. Another crowning celebration.
“I mean, we're saying it's Carver North,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said after Saturday’s 89-84 semifinal win over fifth-ranked Maryland. “It's just amazing how the Hawkeye fans have shown up.”
It was a consistent theme this week.
Saturday’s victory was attended by 9,375 people, then the second-most for a Big Ten tournament game. Friday, a Big Ten-quarterfinal record 8,577 showed up for Iowa’s 69-58 win against Purdue.
“I don’t know if we do it without them,” said Iowa star Caitlin Clark, the tournament’s most outstanding player. “It’s literally home-court advantage. They’re chanting ‘Let’s go Hawks’ with 45 minutes left in warm-ups. That’s probably pretty intimidating if I’m the other team.”
“I don't know if I ever want to visit the state of Iowa again, that's for sure,” said Maryland’s Abby Meyers, whose Terrapins also got an Iowa City greeting in Iowa’s 96-82 win on Feb. 2. “They're an amazing team, and they really bring out the best in women’s college basketball. You saw it out there with the environment, the fans, and everyone just cheering for them.”
Along with her 30 points and 17 assists on the floor, Clark provided nonverbal encouragement for the fans.
Keep standing. Get even louder.
When she chased down her 10th rebound in the fourth quarter to wrap up the title game’s first triple-double, the folks in gold knew what to do. A rousing standing ovation brought out a smile from Clark as she dribbled up the floor.
“They're loud. They're into it. They know what's happening on the court,” Clark said Saturday. “They're not just here because I was here. They're here to cheer this team on and watch women's basketball and be invested in it.”
This time next year, Minneapolis hosts this tournament for a second time. The flock of Iowa supporters will surely be back as the Hawkeyes try for a three-peat, and perhaps another record-book rewriting.
But there are important things for this team to focus on now, of course. The NCAA Tournament starts next week and the Hawkeyes will welcome their followers back to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the start of what they hope is a deep run after last year’s second-round exit.
“We just want to bring people joy,” Bluder said. “That's really what this team is all about.”