116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
INDIANAPOLIS — The Iowa Hawkeyes have found it.
A sweet spot. A happy place.
'We've been together a long time. In a pandemic, you don't hang out with anybody other than your teammates,' Coach Lisa Bluder said. 'Some teams, this time of year, they're tired of each other. We're not.'
The Hawkeyes (18-8) ran the same script as the previous two days, defeating Michigan State, 87-72, in a Big Ten women's basketball tournament semifinal Friday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
'It's been awesome seeing so many people contribute so much,' freshman Caitlin Clark said. 'I think that's why we're playing well right now.'
The outcome was Iowa's third straight double-digit victory of the week. The reward is a date with mighty Maryland (23-2) for the tournament championship — and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament — at 1 p.m. (CT) Saturday (TV: ESPNU).
The top-seeded, seventh-ranked Terrapins are regular-season champions, defending tournament champions and are in the finals for the seventh straight year. They ran past Iowa, 111-93, Feb. 23.
'We'll go into it believing,' Bluder said. 'We know we can compete. They know they have a really good basketball team. We respect them, but we're not scared.'
Monika Czinano, who scored a career-high 38 points in a second-round win Wednesday, navigated through foul trouble Friday, scoring a game-high 27. The junior post has hit 38 of 49 field-goal attempts this week, 12 of 16 against the Spartans (15-8).
Despite a 6-for-21 shooting night, Clark registered 20 points and 11 assists. McKenna Warnock had her best day of the tournament, with 17 points (4 of 5 from long distance) and 12 rebounds.
'That first 3 went down, and obviously that's very promising,' Warnock said. 'Our chemistry is really good right now. We're having fun.'
Clark is the nation's leading scorer, but 'I have a little lid on the rim right now,' she said. 'But I think we're better when I have 20 points and 10 assists.'
The game featured nine ties and 18 lead changes, and it was still anybody's game when the Hawkeyes grabbed control with about eight minutes to go.
At 66-62, Warnock grabbed an offensive rebound and converted it into a three-point play. Czinano followed with a pair of free throws for a 71-62 advantage.
Then it was Clark, who at that point was 4 of 18 from the floor. She knocked down consecutive treys for Iowa's biggest lead, 77-62.
'I'm going to keep shooting,' Clark said. 'It would have looked bad had I not shot those. They were wide open.
'McKenna was, 'No, no, no, run clock.' Nah, I gotta shoot that.'
The Spartans were within 77-69 with 3:05 to go, but Clark found Czinano underneath, Warnock did the same, then it was Clark to Warnock in transition for her 11th assist, the Hawkeyes' 24th.
Iowa beat Maryland for the tournament title here two years ago. The Hawkeyes will be significant underdogs Saturday.
'We can't let up for a single minute,' Clark said. 'If we do, they'll score 10 points and the game will be over.'
Bluder said, 'We're just going to believe it, dream about it tonight. You've got to have that first.'
IOWA 87, MICHIGAN STATE 72
Big Ten Tournament Semifinal, at Indianapolis
MICHIGAN STATE (72): Alisia Smith 2-6 4-6 8, Alyza Winston 2-13 0-0 4, Moira Joiner 3-7 1-2 10, Janai Crooms 2-5 0-2 4, Nia Clouden 10-19 1-2 24, Mardrekia Cook 2-3 0-0 5, Taiyier Parks 2-6 0-2 4, Kendall Bostic 6-9 0-0 13, Laurel Jacqmain 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-68 6-14 72.
IOWA (87): McKenna Warnock 5-8 4-5 17, Monika Czinano 12-16 3-4 27, Kate Martin 1-6 2-2 5, Caitlin Clark 6-21 5-5 20, Gabbie Marshall 2-7 3-3 7, Megan Meyer 1-2 0-0 3, Sharon Goodman 3-4 0-0 6, Tomi Taiwo 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 30-64 19-21 87.
Halftime: MSU 41, Iowa 40. 3-point goals: MSU 8-20 (Winston 0-7, Joiner 3-5, Clouden 3-5, Cook 1-1, Bostic 1-2), Iowa 8-26 (Warnock 3-6, Martin 1-4, Clark 3-10, Marshall 0-4, Meyer 1-2). Team fouls: MSU 19, Iowa 13. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: MSU 40 (Smith, Joiner 8), Iowa 33 (Warnock 11). Assists: MSU 16 (Crooms 5), Iowa 24 (Clark 11). Steals: MSU 3 (three with 1), Iowa 8 (Clark, Marshall 2). Turnovers: MSU 16, Iowa 11.
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