Caitlin Clark, Iowa win third straight Big Ten title with victory over Nebraska: Did Hawkeyes lock up the No. 1 seed?



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Iowa knocked off Nebraska 94-89 to win its third consecutive Big Ten tournament championship Sunday.

With under 40 seconds to play, Caitlin Clark intercepted a Huskers pass and was fouled. She hit both free throws to give the Hawkeyes a 91-87 lead after scoring their last six points. She’d intercept another pass with under five seconds to go to seal Iowa’s victory.

“It’s really special, we’ve been in the Big Ten championship every single year I’ve been here. … Each one gets better and better,” Clark said postgame.

In regulation, Clark hit a 3-pointer with 2:12 left to bring the Hawkeyes within five. Clark then assisted Hannah Stuelke and Kate Martin on the following two possessions to bring Iowa within two. After a Nebraska turnover, Clark netted a layup to even the game at 77 with 29.3 seconds to play. That score would stand, sending the game to overtime.

Clark started the game slow before heating up in the third quarter and finishing with 34 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. She missed all six of her first 3-point attempts and finished the first quarter with two points on 1 of 8 field goals. But her first-half assists accounted for 19 of Iowa’s points, according to the CBS broadcast.

“I think our first half obviously wasn’t very good across the board, for myself included,” Clark said. “We had no choice but to figure it out and respond at halftime.”

After trailing for the better part of three quarters, the Hawkeyes pulled within one on a Stuelke layup with less than four minutes to play in the third. A Clark layup nearly two minutes later gave Iowa its first lead since the first few minutes of the matchup. That’s where the back-and-forth lead trades began.

Stuelke finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. Kate Martin added 13 points and seven rebounds.

For Nebraska, Alexis Markowski had 23 points and 13 rebounds. Natalie Potts scored 21 and Jaz Shelley 16.

In the regular season, Iowa and Nebraska traded wins at home, with the Hawkeyes winning the first matchup (Jan. 27) and the Huskers taking the second (Feb. 11).

How did Iowa pull off the overtime win?

Throughout regulation, with the exception of the third quarter, Iowa just kept playing from behind in a six to seven point hole. Every time Iowa made any kind of a run, Nebraska answered and just kept the Hawkeyes at bay. But Clark was inevitable.

She scored 24 second-half points, and either scored or assisted on the final 12 points of regulation to push Iowa-Nebraska into overtime.

And in overtime, Iowa — a team that is not particularly notable for its defensive prowess as a unit — came up big. Clark had two steals that more closely resembled interceptions by a defensive back and Gabbie Marshall, the Hawkeyes’ best perimeter defensive player, secured a block and a deflect on a Nebraska inbounds pass that helped secure the game. — Chantel Jennings, senior women’s basketball writer

Will Iowa get a No. 1 seed?

Yes. More conference tournaments need to shake out, but the Hawkeyes should be on top next Sunday.

Most importantly, by being a one-seed, the committee will try to put Iowa in the region that is most favorable to them. To me, that’s Portland — the Moda Center seats 3,000 more fans than Albany’s location, and given how well Iowa fans travel, they’ll want to be in the location that they can make Carver East or Carver West.

If they can put 3,000 more butts in the seats in Portland, that’s where they should go. — Jennings

Is it now time to worry about Clark’s shooting?

No. Three games in three days is a lot, especially at the end of a long season. She is a high usage player and she has taken a lot of hits the last few months. Most of her misses were short, which can probably be attributed to tired legs.

Now, she’ll get a week and a half of rest ahead of the NCAA Tournament and this staff, most certainly, is going to keep her off her legs as much as possible.

The more surprising part to me from Sunday’s game were the number of times Clark mishandled the ball. They didn’t always result in turnovers, but just the bobbles here and there felt quite uncharacteristic for a player who always seems to have ice in her veins. — Jennings

Required reading

(Photo: Adam Bettcher / Getty Images)





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