Iowa Women's Basketball

Caitlin Clark, Iowa women's basketball look to bounce back against Ohio State

Both teams are averaging about 90 points per game

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) huddles with teammates before going to the free throw line against Rutgers on Dec. 31. The
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) huddles with teammates before going to the free throw line against Rutgers on Dec. 31. The Hawkeyes host No. 15 Ohio State at 3 p.m. Wednesday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Caitlin Clark resisted the urge to hit the gym Sunday.

“I think I needed to take a break, relax and decompress,” Iowa’s freshman point guard said Monday. “I’ll be back in there tonight.”

In a rare instance in which Clark — and the Hawkeyes — acted their age, they absorbed a 77-67 loss to Northwestern on Saturday.

“Our youth really showed,” Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said. “We didn’t play to our capability. But we’ll be ready to bounce back.”

The Hawkeyes (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) return to the comforts of Carver-Hawkeye Arena — where they have won 42 consecutive games — for a 3 p.m. encounter Wednesday (BTN) against No. 15 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0).

Ohio State has been the Big Ten’s most-affected team by COVID-19. The Buckeyes have had four games postponed (including a yet-to-be-rescheduled home date with Iowa on Dec. 19) and two games canceled, and have played just twice since Dec. 10.

“They’re kind of hard to prepare for, since they’ve only played six games,” Bluder said. “But I do think it’s the best team we’ll have faced so far.”

The matchup shakes up as a potential track meet. Ohio State is fourth in the nation in scoring offense (90.8 points per game), and Iowa is fifth (89.6).

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Despite Iowa’s season-low of 67 points against Northwestern, junior post Monika Czinano was spectacular, hitting 13 of 14 shots in a 28-point performance.

“She should have taken 20 shots instead of 14,” Bluder said.

Clark scored a career-high 37 points in the Hawkeyes’ rally against Minnesota on Wednesday, then set a career-low with eight points against Northwestern.

“Credit to Northwestern, that’s the toughest defense we’ve faced,” Clark said. “They knew what we were about.”

McKenna Warnock said, “Northwestern exploited a lot of areas we struggle at. We needed to work on our defense. Sometimes a young team isn’t as vocal, so we worked on our communication.”

Defense will be a challenge against the Buckeyes, who have five players averaging in double figures, led by sophomore guard Jacy Sheldon at 18.3 points per game.

“We can’t just rely on our offense,” Bluder said. “We have to play on both ends.”

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

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