Iowa Women's Basketball

Caitlin Clark debuts with 27 points; Iowa tops UNI, 96-81

Women's basketball: Hawkeyes avenge last season's drubbing at Cedar Falls

IOWA CITY — It was what Caitlin Clark visualized. It was what Lisa Bluder expected.

A much-ballyhooed freshman guard, Clark debuted with a 27-point gem to lead Iowa past Northern Iowa, 96-81, in the women’s basketball season opener for both teams Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“I set my goals pretty high,” Clark said. “I wouldn’t say I’m shocked. It was a good start for sure.”

Clark's arrival was one of the most anticipated in program history. The former West Des Moines Dowling star was a top-five recruit by ESPN, and she more than lived up to expectations.

The Iowa media guide doesn’t have a record for most points in a debut, but this had to be it.

“She was what we expected,” said Bluder, who improved to 21-0 in season openers at Iowa. “She’s so good with the ball in her hands.

“We all know what kind of offensive threat she is. We’ve recruited her for so long, and we’ve been looking for this day for so long.”

For the record, Clark’s first points came on a pair of free throws, just 33 seconds into the game. She added a basket shortly thereafter on an aggressive drive to the hoop, and had 17 points by halftime.

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Clark finished with 10-of-17 shooting, including 3 of 6 from long distance. She hit all four of her free throws, and accumulated eight rebounds, four assists, four turnovers and three steals.

“I’m used to a fast pace, go-go-go,” she said. “I was a little winded, but it didn’t affect me too much.”

The Hawkeyes (1-0) avenged an 88-66 loss to the Panthers last season at Cedar Falls.

“We definitely were really motivated,” junior post Monika Czinano said. “You never want to lose like we did to them last year. We really wanted to bring it to them.”

And they did. The Hawkeyes blew it open with a 38-point third quarter and cruised to their 37th straight win at Carver.

“I thought Iowa out-toughed us,” UNI Coach Tanya Warren said. “We didn’t defend very well. You give up 96, and you’re not going to win many basketball games. I thought Iowa played extremely well.”

A preseason all-Big Ten selection, Czinano added 19 points, and McKenna Warnock posted 14 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.

Wednesday’s announced attendance was 365, strictly family members of both teams.

“It kind of felt like a closed scrimmage,” Bluder said. “We were excited to get going, but it didn’t really feel like a real game. We didn’t have the energy from the crowd.”

So the Hawkeyes had to manufacture their own energy.

“I thought the bench did a really good job of bringing it,” Warnock said.

Iowa jumped to a 19-4 lead, UNI (0-1) rallied to take a one-point edge at 30-29 and 36-35, then the Hawkeyes scored the final eight points for a 43-36 halftime lead.

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Then came the third-quarter ambush, in which the Hawkeyes hit 10 of 15 shots from the floor (6 of 8 from long range) and 12 of 14 free throws. Iowa led by 25 points on three occasions in the fourth quarter.

Iowa’s four freshmen combined for 42 points. In addition to Clark’s 27, Sharon Goodman tallied nine, Lauren Jensen five, Shateah Wetering one.

“Sharon is a workhorse in there,” Bluder said. “She’s a fighter; she doesn’t back down. She’s physical and runs the floor well.”

Kam Finley paced UNI with 22 points. Megan Maahs added 14.

The Panthers were without four freshmen — Grace Boffeli, Maya McDermott, Kayba Laube and Maya Gyamfi.

Warren didn’t confirm that they were quarantined, but said, “I hope they join us very, very soon.”

UNI hosts Creighton on Saturday; the Hawkeyes are at Drake next Wednesday.

IOWA 96, NORTHERN IOWA 81

At Iowa City

NORTHERN IOWA (81): Cailyn Morgan 1-4 0-0 3, Karli Rucker 5-11 0-0 11, Nicole Kroeger 2-5 0-0 5, Bre Gunnels 1-4 4-4 6, Megan Maahs 5-12 2-2 14, Emerson Green 4-6 0-2 11, Kam Finley 8-18 4-5 22, Sara McCullough 0-2 1-2 1, Cynthia Wolf 2-8 1-2 5, Kiana Barney 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 29-72 12-17 81.

IOWA (96): McKenna Warnock 4-7 5-6 14, Kate Martin 2-3 0-0 4, Caitlin Clark 10-17 4-4 27, Gabbie Marshall 4-9 0-0 11, Monika Czinano 7-12 5-8 19, Alexis Sevillian 0-0 2-2 2, Megan Meyer 0-4 0-0 0, Sharon Goodman 4-6 1-2 9, Logan Cook 1-2 0-0 2, Lauren Jensen 2-3 0-0 5, Shateah Wetering 0-1 1-2 1, Zion Sanders 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 35-66 18-24 96.

Halftime: Iowa 43, UNI 36.

3-point goals: UNI 11-32 (Gunnels 0-2, Maahs 2-4, Morgan 1-2, Rucker 1-3, Kroeger 1-3, Green 3-5, Finley 2-7, McCullough 0-1, Wolf 0-4, Barney 1-1), Iowa 8-17 (Warnock 1-2, Clark 3-6, Marshall 3-5, Meyer 0-2, Jensen 1-2). Team fouls: UNI 15, Iowa 17. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: UNI 34 (Gunnels 8), Iowa 44 (Warnock 13). Assists: UNI 16 (Kroeger 5), Iowa 18 (Warnock 6). Steals: UNI 11 (three with 2), Iowa 10 (Clark 3). Turnovers: UNI 15, Iowa 17. Attendance: 365.

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

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