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Hard-fought, cleansing win over Georgia sends Iowa women to the Sweet 16
Hawkeyes will face Duke or Colorado on Friday in Seattle
IOWA CITY — Euphoria was absent in the winning locker room.
Or, at the very least, muted.
“There wasn’t a huge party or celebration,” Caitlin Clark said. “The Sweet 16 isn’t the goal.
“This was the first weekend. Now, it’s onto the second weekend, and hopefully there’s a third.”
The best word for third-ranked Iowa’s 74-66 NCAA women’s basketball tournament second-round win over Georgia on Sunday at a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena?
The Hawkeyes (28-6) washed away both the sting and the stink from last year’s shocking second-round loss to Creighton, holding Georgia scoreless in the final 2:15 after the Bulldogs (22-12) got within 68-66.
Iowa will face No. 13 Duke or No. 21 Colorado in a regional semifinal Friday at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. The Blue Devils (27-6) and the Buffaloes (25-8) collide at 8 p.m. (CT) Monday night.
It will be Iowa’s ninth Sweet 16 appearance overall, its fourth since 2015.
Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock were winners in their final Carver appearance. Both shed a tear or two as they walked off the home court for the final time.
“I don’t show much emotion,” Warnock said. “Monika started it first. It’s her fault.”
Czinano said, “I was hugging (assistant coach Jan Jensen) and I saw my family in the crowd. I’m just so appreciative of everything.
“If I’ve given back a quarter of what this place has given me, I’ve done my job.”
Clark, likely to be named the national player of the year (the Associated Press releases its choice March 30) posted 22 points and 12 assists, and had a hand in 33 of Iowa’s final 35 points, whether by scoring or distributing.
“I really didn’t want this team to lose,” she said. “This is really special. The crowd responds when I throw my arms in the air.”
For 38 minutes, Sunday’s game was eerily similar to the one that marked Iowa’s demise last year. Georgia was right on Iowa’s heels at 68-66 when Audrey Warren nailed a 3-pointer with 2:15 left.
Clark missed a short jumper, then got another chance on the next possession, and banked it home.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, turned it over on three straight possessions.
“We had an opportunity, and couldn’t capitalize on it,” Georgia’s Javyn Nicholson said.
It got snippy at the end. With Iowa still in front 70-66 in the final seconds, Marshall absorbed a hard foul, an intentional foul.
Clark took the two free throws, and made both.
Iowa got possession, and the Bulldogs committed another intentional foul. Clark converted two more free throws for the final margin.
“The last two minutes weren’t indicative of the game,” said Georgia Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, a Cedar Rapids native and Iowa alum.
“There were two good teams on the floor today, and one of them was Georgia.”
All five of Iowa’s starters played 37 minutes or more, with Clark on the floor for the full 40.
Key post reserve Hannah Stuelke “turned an ankle literally with three minutes left in practice (Saturday),” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “She did treatments until late last night, and I thought she would be able to go.
“But in the first warmup, I knew it was going to be tough for her.”
Molly Davis got tangled up with a Georgia player and was shaken up late in the first quarter. Her playing time was limited the rest of the way.
Iowa made seven of its first nine 3-point attempts, with Warnock’s long shot giving the Hawkeyes their largest lead of the day, 31-21, with 7:28 left in the second quarter.
But Georgia rallied quickly and took a 35-34 lead late in the second quarter. Iowa led 41-40 at halftime.
The Bulldogs’ last time in front was 52-51, then Czinano converted inside, Gabbie Marshall hit a 3-pointer and Warnock scored from the baseline to push Iowa in front, 58-52.
Czinano’s bucket made it 64-56, then the Hawkeyes weathered one final Georgia push.
“I’m thrilled,” Bluder said. “Georgia is an excellent basketball team. We had to play very, very well to get this victory.”
Czinano added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Hawkeyes. Marshall continued her late-season surge with 15, and Warnock tallied 14 points and eight boards.
“With us, who are you going to guard?” Clark said. “Who are you going to leave open?”
Diamond Battles led Georgia with 21 points. Nicholson and Brittney Smith added 12 apiece.
Iowa 74, Georgia 66
NCAA Tournament Second Round, at Iowa City
GEORGIA (66): Jordan Isaacs 2-3 2-2 6, Brittney Smith 6-14 0-0 12, Chloe Chapman 0-1 0-0 0, Diamond Battles 7-15 4-4 21, Audrey Warren 1-4 0-0 3, Alisha Lewis 3-7 0-0 8, Javyn Nicholson 4-8 4-6 12, Zoesha Smith 2-7 0-0 4, Malury Bates 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-60 10-12 66.
IOWA (74): McKenna Warnock 5-11 2-2 14, Monika Czinano 9-16 2-4 20, Kate Martin 1-4 0-0 3, Caitlin Clark 6-17 6-7 22, Gabbie Marshall 5-9 0-0 15, Sydney Affolter 0-0 0-0 0, Addison O’Grady 0-1 0-0 0, Molly Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 10-13 74.
Georgia 17 23 14 12 — 66
Iowa 19 22 17 16 — 74
3-point goals: Georgia 6-16 (Chapman 0-1, Battles 3-7, Warren 1-3, Lewis 2-5), Iowa 12-28 (Warnock 2-6, Martin 1-4, Clark 4-10, Marshall 5-8). Team fouls: Georgia 16, Iowa 13. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: Georgia 42 (Isaacs 10), Iowa 29 (Czinano 9). Assists: Georgia 17 (Lewis 10), Iowa 21 (Clark 12). Steals: Georgia 13 (Smith 4), Iowa 8 (Clark 3). Turnovers: Georgia 18, Iowa 17.