116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Sports / Iowa Hawkeyes / Iowa Basketball
Is Caitlin Clark the National Player of the Year? If she’s not, there is no such thing
Iowa junior scored 42 points, and the Hawkeyes overwhelmed No. 8 Maryland Thursday night, 96-82
IOWA CITY — Iowa’s women’s basketball team is in constant attack mode.
Even its centers race up and down the court. Everyone whips the ball around as if the 30-second shot clock reaching single-digits is a crime against the sport.
Caitlin Clark threw a pass from the 3-point line in the backcourt to Hannah Stuelke at the 3-point line in the frontcourt for a basket as the shot clock struck 25.
So maybe it was only natural that Hawkeyes Coach Lisa Bluder went on the offensive at the start of her postgame press conference after her sixth-ranked team did so for 40 minutes in a 96-82 win over No. 8 Maryland.
“Anytime you beat a top-10 team, it’s special,” Bluder said, “but I don’t know how you cannot say that is not the National Player of the Year,” referring to Clark.
The double negative didn’t stop the point from getting made. “I don’t know how you can say she is not,” Bluder continued. “She was unbelievable tonight.”
That, no one could argue. Clark had 42 points, 24 of them in the first half as the Hawkeyes soared to a 56-38 lead. She made six of her patented 3-point bombs, none of which ever seem to be anything shorter than NBA 3s. She got fouled on one and converted the 4-point play.
Clark also had eight assists and seven rebounds, drew 12 fouls, and led the wrecking of a Terrapins team that came here with 11 wins in its last 12 games.
National Player of the Year stuff? Sure, unless you ask someone from LSU, where junior Angel Reese is fifth in the nation in scoring (23.4 points per game) and second in rebounding (15.6) for a team that’s 22-0.
Reese transferred to Baton Rouge from Maryland, and the rest of the Big Ten thanks her.
Clark is second nationally in scoring (27.8 ppg) and second in assists per game with 7.9, and she averages nearly eight rebounds. That’s for a team that is tied for first place with Indiana in the conference that may be superseding the SEC as the best in women’s hoops.
Here were the Hawkeyes, after already having appeared in weekend games on ABC and FOX this season, playing on ESPN in a weeknight prime-time game. Not ESPN2, or ESPNU or ESPN’s streaming service, but ESPN. The mother ship.
Iowa hopped on another big stage and glowed in the spotlight. It wasn’t just Clark. Center Monika Czinano made 14 of 18 shots and scored 28 points.
“They had monster games,” said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese.
Two Hawkeyes besides Clark had at least five assists. Freshman Stuelke of Cedar Rapids made all five of her field goal tries and scored 13 points.
Clark, though, has a name and game that keep getting more ingrained in the national sports consciousness. Hanging a 42 on marquee-team Maryland, which lost for just the 20th time in its 151 all-time Big Ten regular-season games under Cedar Rapids native Frese, and on ESPN?
“On ESPN today it brings a different respect, and that helps with recruiting and fans and everything,” Bluder said. “I absolutely believe it changes the way people think about us.”
As for the Player of the Year business, Clark said all the right things Thursday like “As long as my team wins, all that takes care of itself.” And “That’s not the reason you play the game of basketball. I play because I love it. It brings a lot of people joy, not only myself.”
But she admitted “It is a big deal. It’s not something that I just brush off.”
What she has that may put her over the top in the NPOY race is the flair, the theatrical moments. She puts all her passion and fury and delight and occasional disgust out there for the world. The latter comes from officiating, but you’d also be frustrated if you saw everything on the court so much better than the refs.
“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player,” said Frese, who knows what they look like. She has coached a national champion and has been National Coach of the Year twice.
“She’s a pleasure to play unless you’re scouting her and going against her. … Just a huge night, a special player.”
Clark’s Iowa teams had played three games against Maryland over her first two seasons, losing each by double-digits.
“This one probably felt a little better for me,” she said.
Yep, get 42 points and eight assists and win by 14 over the nation’s No. 8 team. Those numbers add up to 1, as in Amerca’s No. 1 player.
Comments: (319) 398-8440; firstname.lastname@example.org