Iowa had its opportunities and much like the rest of the day, the Hawkeyes couldn’t convert.
Well. 10 Creighton knocked out the second-seeded Hawkeyes, 64-62, to advance to the Sweet 16 in the Greensboro region on Saturday. Guard Lauren Jensen, a sophomore transfer from Iowa, followed a layup with the game-winning 3-pointer with 15 seconds left on an assist by Tatum Rembao. It made it 63-62.
Caitlin Clark, the nation’s leading scorer, missed on a drive to the layup and Emma Ronsiek made one of two free throws. The Hawkeyes ran their inbound play for Monika Czinano, the nation’s most efficient shooter, and she fell short. They had a put-back opportunity that also didn’t go. The Hawkeyes missed their final five field goal attempts of the game.
Jensen led all Bluejays scorers with 19 points and hit three of the team’s 10 3-pointers. She had nine of Creighton’s 13 points in the fourth quarter. Ronsiek had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double. Payton Brotzki added 13 points with three 3-pointers.
The Bluejays crushed the Hawkeyes on the boards (52-37), kept Clark to a season-low defensively and never let the roaring sold-out crowd at Iowa’s campus throw them off their mission. Creighton now advances to play the winner of No. 1 overall seed South Carolina and No. 8 Miami. It means national player of the year favorites Clark and Aliyah Boston will not go head-to-head this season.
Iowa’s supporting staff struggled
It was a long day of clawing back into the game for Iowa (24-8), which trailed until the fourth quarter as everyone around Clark and Czinano struggled. Creighton led, 23-17, through one quarter with all of Iowa’s points coming from the “Law Firm of Clark and Czinano” as they’re called by fans. The first Hawkeye basket from a different player didn’t come until the 1:44 mark of the second quarter.
The Bluejays led by as many as 12 and took a 51-48 lead into the locker room. Everyone around Clark and Czinano combined to shoot 3-of-15. And with no one else able to put away shots, the defense collapsed onto Clark and Czinano.
Iowa went on two four-point swings to make it a 3-point game at the end of the third quarter, but only four of their 16 points came outside of the law firm. When others finally began hitting shots again is when Iowa got back into it and took its first lead, 56-54, with 6:53 to play. It came on a second consecutive 3-pointer by Gabbie Marshall. Czinano added a basket to extend the lead, but it stayed one possession down the stretch until Jensen made a layup out of the timeout and waited for her moment to hit the winner.
Czinano, Clark not enough
Czinano scored a game-high 27 points on 12-for-20 shooting (60%) with six rebounds and two assists.
Clark was kept to a quiet 15-point, 11-assist double-double with eight rebounds. She was 4-of-19 overall and made 3-of-10 3-pointers. Creighton head coach Jim Flanery said the gameplan was to rotate three or four defenders on Clark throughout the game and said his team did “as good as you’re probably gonna get with somebody that good.”
“It was rotate defenders, and… keeping a fresher defender on her, that was part of the idea of keeping the ball out of her hands,” he said.
The team couldn’t step up around her, going 5-for-22 from behind the arc and 35.7% overall. Those around the law firm were 9-for-31.
Clark didn’t take her first free throw until the fourth quarter and made all four she took. The sophomore averages seven per game and took some hard hits that didn’t draw calls.
“I think I’m an emotional player, no matter the situation, good or bad,” Clark said. “Obviously frustrated with the calls, but also I missed some bunnies that I usually make. … I’m not gonna sit here and make excuses for how I played. “
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder also took issue with the lack of calls for her player of the year contender.
“I do believe that game was called differently than we’ve seen all year,” Bluder said. “And I really think that’s unfortunate.
“It’s pretty frustrating, when an NCAA championship game is called completely different from the 30 games that prepared you for this.”
Iowa’s arena roars on national TV
It was the third consecutive sold-out crowd at Carver Hawkeye Arena and the ESPN on ABC broadcast said the school asked the fire marshal if there was any way to let more people into the building. It didn’t phase Creighton.
“That was the most special environment I’ve ever played in, by far,” Brotzki said. “It’s really, really special for the sport.”
The 14,382 roared throughout the two hours and hit a 111 decibel level as Clark was introduced, per Scott Dochterman of the Athletic. They hit a piercing crescendo in the fourth quarter when Iowa took its first lead. Dochterman recorded it at 113 and 114 for Marshall’s 3-pointers and 114 for Czinano’s basket.