Clark, Iowa shake off 'rust,' close strong in R1 win



IOWA CITY, Iowa — Caitlin Clark wasn’t entirely happy with how the Iowa women’s basketball team started Saturday’s NCAA tournament first-round game. But she did like the way the Hawkeyes sorted things out and took over to cruise to a 91-65 victory over No. 16 seed Holy Cross in the Albany 2 Region.

“This is a game you want to come out and dominate from the start,” said Clark, who finished with 27 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds. “Maybe we played with a little bit of rust. They really packed the paint — they sat four people in there, and it’s really hard to drive to the basket.

“We really started running our offense in the second quarter. I think I was a little frustrated, but I think that comes from knowing what it takes to be where we want to be.”

The Hawkeyes had not played since winning the Big Ten tournament March 10 in Minneapolis. Against Holy Cross, the Patriot League champion that won its First Four game against UT Martin on Thursday here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa led by just two points after the first quarter.

But Iowa leads Division I in scoring. Even with a slow start, things almost always start clicking for the Hawkeyes on that end of the court.

“One of the best parts of this team is we always are in a game, no matter what the situation is,” Clark said. “That speaks to our offensive firepower. And when we’re able to string stops together, that’s when our offense really thrives.”

And the Hawkeyes did that despite starting forward Hannah Stuelke, their second-leading scorer and rebounder behind Clark, playing just 10 minutes in the first half and none in the second. She was dealing with migraine symptoms but said after the game she expects to be fine for the Hawkeyes’ second-round game Monday against No. 8 seed West Virginia, which defeated No. 9 Princeton 63-53 Saturday.

“She didn’t feel well, and it just wasn’t worth putting her in there when we didn’t have to have her,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “So just kind of save her for Monday. And I thought [Addison O’Grady] went in and did a great job.”

O’Grady came off the bench for 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting with five rebounds.

“She knows what we need her to contribute,” Clark said of O’Grady. “But also Addy just gives us a whole different dynamic than Hannah. When Coach was like, ‘Hannah’s not going to go in the second half,’ Addy didn’t bat an eye. She was just ready.”

The Hawkeyes also got 15 points from Kate Martin and 11 from fellow guard Gabbie Marshall. As a team, Iowa made 10 3-pointers.

“It was definitely a little clunky at times,” Clark said of the game overall. “The first quarter for sure. But the best thing is we responded in the second quarter and were able to get a significant lead. You saw how fast we were able to go on a run. That’s one of the most dangerous things about our team: We can really put up some offensive numbers in a short amount of time.”



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