Iowa Women's Basketball

Caitlin Clark has been elite, but she's not flawless

The nation's leading scorer, Iowa freshman working on minimizing turnovers, locking down on 'D'

Iowa's Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin double-team Iowa State's Madison Wise (1) during the Hawkeyes' 82-80 win Dec. 9. Cl
Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin double-team Iowa State’s Madison Wise (1) during the Hawkeyes’ 82-80 win Dec. 9. Clark said Monday her defense and ball security needs work. There’s nothing wrong with her scoring ability, though; her 29.8 points per game is tops in the country. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Lisa Bluder called them warts. For the sake of our readers, we’ll simply call them flaws.

The Iowa Hawkeyes have them. Even Caitlin Clark.

“We see her every day in practice. She does have warts,” Bluder said of Clark. “We know what they are. We just don’t want our opponents to know what they are.”

Clark knows what they are.

“Turnovers are a big one,” she said. “I’m kind of susceptible to turnovers. I like to play fast, and I’m kind of a risk-taker. I could put teammates in a better position.

“Defense is another one. I could lock down on defense better for sure.”

Producing points, though ... no issues there.

A freshman from West Des Moines, Clark is the nation’s leading scorer at 29.8 points per game. She ranks ninth in assists per game (6.4).

And national attention? That’s coming, too.

From ESPN.com’s Charlie Creme:

“Clark might not just be the best freshman in the country; an argument could be made that she has been the best player.”

A two-time Big Ten player of the week, Clark said, “Yeah, I saw that. But at the same time, I’ve only played five games.

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“We’re going to play better and better competition. All I want to do is win. That’s at the forefront of our minds.”

The Hawkeyes (4-1) host Western Illinois (1-6) in their final non-conference game, with a 1 p.m. tipoff Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

It is Iowa’s first game since suffering its first loss, Dec. 12 at Michigan State. The Hawkeyes’ scheduled game at Ohio State last Saturday was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Buckeyes’ program.

“You hate sitting on a loss and we’ve had to sit on that one for a long time,” Bluder said. “We actually tried to find another game (to replace Ohio State), a non-conference game we could have put in there. We went through a lot of avenues, but didn’t have any luck.”

So, other than three days off since the trip to East Lansing, the Hawkeyes worked on making themselves better, particularly on a defense that ranks 317th of 324 Division-I teams, allowing 84.4 points per game (they’re ninth offensively at 89.6).

“We put a lot of focus on defense this week,” sophomore McKenna Warnock said. “Opponents have exploited us the last couple of games. We are trying to find that passion to play defense all the time. Communication is important.”

Western Illinois lost its first six games before earning its first victory, 79-57 over Bellarmine on Saturday.

“This could be a trap game,” Bluder said. “Our girls are smart; they see (WIU is) 1-6, right? On paper, we’re the better team, but we’ve got to show it on the court.”

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Mallory McDermott, a freshman guard from Cedar Rapids Prairie, has played in six games for Western, averaging 4.2 points per contest.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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