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IOWA CITY - Nebraska may have won the first three quarters, but Iowa had the last laugh in its final home game Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Backed by strong defensive play and freshman Caitlin Clark's 19-point performance in the fourth quarter, Iowa defeated Nebraska, 83-75, to close out its regular season. Clark's 35-point performance means she's tallied more than 600 points in 23 games, and is the fifth Hawkeye to do so.
But as the Hawkeyes (15-8, 11-8) near the Big Ten tournament, where they will face Purdue on Wednesday in Indianapolis, head coach Lisa Bluder noted that defensive play was key in the victory against Nebraska (11-11, 9-10).
She saw that in players like sophomore Gabbie Marshall, who snatched a team-high three steals and limited junior Sam Haiby to 14 points, half of what she scored last time on the Hawkeyes. Marshall also made 4 of 5 3-pointers as part of her 14 points in the game.
'I thought she did a better job picking (Haiby) up and slowing her down in transition and not letting her get to the rim as much,” Bluder said. 'I wish we would've found her a little bit more (on offense) because when somebody is having a hot night like that, we've got to set them up for 3s.”
After Clark's historic 39-point performance against Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Feb. 11, the expectation was to surpass the mark at home. At halftime, Clark had 10 points, and after a six-point performance in the third, Clark fought to catch up to her own expectations in the fourth.
'If she has a bad first quarter or second quarter, I know she's going to bounce back,” Bluder said. 'She's a kid that it's not going to affect her that much because she has great confidence and you should buy in at this level.”
Nebraska sophomore Ashley Scoggin and freshman Ruby Porter each made three 3-pointers, while Haiby had two. Scoggin led the team with 17 points, Haiby had 14 and sophomore Isabelle Bourne had 13. Kate Cain, the Big Ten blocked shots leader, had three blocks and 12 points.
Down two to start the fourth, junior McKenna Warnock tied the game at 60 before Clark broke the tie. But Marshall's steal set the tone for a 7-0 run to roll up a 69-63 lead en route to a 74-66 edge with five minutes left. The rest was history.
'I love to steal,” Marshall said, 'that's my favorite thing on the court, so when I get a steal and I can assist my teammates, it's really fun.”
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