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Caitlin Clark and Iowa Begin Tournament Run With Win Over Holy Cross

SportCaitlin Clark and Iowa Begin Tournament Run With Win Over Holy Cross

IOWA CITY — It wasn’t the start to March Madness that Iowa or Caitlin Clark wanted, but in a month of survive-and-advance, the Hawkeyes did just that in a 91-65 win over Holy Cross in their NCAA Tournament first-round game Saturday.

“I think the first quarter kind of frustrated maybe all of us in a way,” Clark said. “I feel like this is a game you want to come out and dominate from the start because this is what fuels your run. Like coach (Lisa Bluder) said, I think maybe we played with a little bit of rust.”

It had been 13 days since the Hawkeyes had hoisted the conference trophy after the Big Ten Tournament title game, and that nearly two-week break looked particularly evident early on as No. 1-seed Iowa simply couldn’t shake No. 16-seed Holy Cross.

The Crusaders came out with a physical, aggressive defense that packed the paint and gave the Hawkeyes early trouble. As a team, Iowa shot the ball well in that opening quarter — 46 percent from the floor, including hitting 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc — but Iowa’s six turnovers (which Holy Cross turned into seven points) negated any kind of a potential early lead that hot shooting could’ve built.

By the second quarter, Iowa began to settle into form, got some consecutive defensive stops and cleaned up the giveaways. The Hawkeyes outscored Holy Cross 25-9 in the second quarter, building an 18-point halftime lead that held through the rest of the game.

That quarter in particular showed how dangerous the Hawkeyes are when they hit their stride. They came out on a 19-6 run that included five triples from five different players as Clark worked to stretch the defense and got inside to get to the free-throw line. With Iowa stringing together consecutive stops and the offense clicking, the lead seemed to balloon instantly.

“I think that’s one of the best parts of this team,” Clark said, “We always are in a game no matter what situation it is.”

Despite Clark’s slow start (2 of 8 from the floor in the first half) and six first-half turnovers, the senior turned in her usual dazzling performance, finishing the day with 27 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds (and no second-half turnovers). Sixth-year senior Kate Martin recorded a double-double (15 points, 14 rebounds) while reserve forward Addison O’Grady — who saw increased usage in the second half due to starting forward Hannah Stuelke experiencing migraine symptoms — had a season-high 14 points off the bench.

In addition to Stuelke’s presumed return, the Hawkeyes will also likely get fifth-year senior guard Molly Davis back into the lineup for Monday’s second-round game against West Virginia. Davis, who has averaged six points, three assists and three rebounds per game this season, suffered a knee injury during the regular season finale. Having another primary ballhandler to assist Clark in the backcourt could be crucial on Monday as the Mountaineers use a suffocating, full-court pressing defense to force turnovers.

Required reading

(Photo: Matthew Holst / Getty Images)


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