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Hawkeyes rally past Nebraska

Caitlin Clark had a triple-double in the win over Nebraska. (Photo: Hawkeyesports.com)
Caitlin Clark had a triple-double in the win over Nebraska. (Photo: Hawkeyesports.com)

After one quarter in Iowa City, the Cornhuskers looked like they were going to try to run away with a victory in the rematch of what was a great contest in Lincoln last Sunday. Freshman C Alexis Markowski had 16 points, including four 3pt makes to pace Nebraska, as they jumped out to a 30-14 lead.

“I don’t feel like there was any panic or anything like that. We just said we have to defend them better. We have to get out and cover threes better…We just said let’s give more effort on the defensive end,” said Lisa Bluder. “We weren’t playing Markowski for the three to begin with…it’s one of those things, you go with statistics sometimes and sometimes statistics lie.”

The Hawkeyes battled back in the second quarter and got things done at the free throw line, taking advantage of nine Nebraska fouls. Monika Czinano’s two free throws to end the half capped a 13-2 run and Iowa trailed just 42-41 at the break.

The Huskers came out of the half and picked up the same intensity that they had in the first quarter, getting 3pt makes from Ruby Porter, Ashley Scoggin and Kendall Moriarty. Nebraska built their lead back up to 61-54 with 4:36 to play in the third quarter.

“I thought we had all of the momentum and then they come out and nail a couple of long-distance threes on us,” said Bluder. “I was kind of surprised when they hit some of those threes early (in the third)…We just chipped away at it.”

Once again, Iowa would go on a run and with the Carver crowd behind them, the Hawkeyes took the lead with 32 seconds to play in the quarter on a Gabbie Marshall 3pt make. The three-pointer capped off a 13-5 run and gave Lisa Bluder’s squad a 67-66 lead as they headed to the final period.

“They (the crowd) were great. I just appreciate them coming out,” said Bluder. “We’re just really thankful that they stuck with us even when we had a pretty bad first quarter.”

To open the fourth quarter, Caitlin Clark found Czinano for a transition layup and then followed it up with a steal and a fastbreak layup, plus the foul to really get the crowd going. Kylie Feuerbach added a driving layup with 7:11 to play and the Iowa lead grew to 76-69.

“When you can start the fourth quarter like that, we kind of knew the momentum was going our way and then we could take control of the game,” said Caitlin Clark.

The #1 free throw shooting team in the nation knocked down their free throws as the time wound down and the Hawkeyes picked up their second win in a week vs Nebraska by a score of 93-83.

For the game, Iowa shot 31/34 from the free throw line and took advantage of 28 Nebraska fouls. As a team they are now shooting 86.7% from the charity stripe and Caitlin Clark talked about how much focus there is on the free shots in practice.

“We harp on free throws every single day in practice. They’re called free throws. They’re free. It’s a free point, so I think they are pretty important, and they win you basketball games. It’s something we do every single day in practice.”

Caitlin Clark picked up her third triple-double of the season, logging 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, while Monika Czinano was her normal self in the post, putting up 31 points and six rebounds.

Lisa Bluder was very happy with how her team played defense in the last three quarters and the Hawkeyes were able to limit the Huskers to just eight offensive rebounds after they gave up 23 in Lincoln.

“I liked the defensive effort that we got from Gabbie and Kate. I thought Kate had a really good game. She did so many little things for us and also McKenna, I thought their defensive effort was really good.”

It’s a three-game conference winning streak for the Hawkeyes, but the unique thing about it is that Lisa Bluder’s squad has gotten the job done differently in all three contests. Sunday in Lincoln, the 3pt shooting helped the Hawkeyes to victory, while against Purdue Iowa was forced to score all their points inside the arc, as they were 0/15 from long range. Then today the Hawkeyes used 31 made free throws to propel themselves to the victory.

“I think in a way it’s going to make us a better team,” said Caitlin Clark. “If you look at it in a positive view, you have so many different weapons and so many different options. If you’re not hitting your three? Ok let’s go inside, let’s drive, let’s get to the free throw line. If you are hitting your three, ok and then wait until we have games where we’re making it both. It’s going to be pretty scary…At the end of the day, people are just going to look at the final score and see if it’s a W or an L and we’ve been finding ways to win and that’s all that matters.”

“What she said,” said Monika Czinano laughing, as she followed up the statement from Clark on how finding different ways to win a ballgame can ultimately be a confidence boost for this team going forward.

Iowa now sits in sole third place in Big Ten play and will head back on the road Thursday for a trip to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers are 9-9 on the season and just 2-4 in Big Ten play. The game is at 7:00pm and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.