SE Louisiana head coach Ayla Guzzardo had some interesting comments early in the week on facing the Hawkeyes and their mega star Caitlin Clark. When told in an interview “you guys don’t have Caitlin Clark” the SELA coach understandably backed her team by pointing out that, while they don’t have a Caitlin Clark, they have other players who are more than capable. That’s fine, it’s just normal coach speak. Then things got a little interesting. Guzzardo brought up SELA PG Jalencia Pierre, who would be guarding Clark, and said “she’s going to make her life miserable.”
Let’s allow ESPN the Ocho’s own Pepper Brooks to respond...
Clark must have thought the same. The Hawkeye phenom started the game by hitting her first four shots from the floor and paced the Hawkeyes early with 12 quick points. Gosh if that is miserable I can’t even imagine what Clark looks like at her best. On the other hand, maybe I’ve gone the first 29 years of my life completely misunderstanding the meaning of the word? I’m going to go with that assumption. But back to the game. The continuation of the shooting exploits of Gabbie Marshall that Iowa fans were privileged to in Minneapolis, along with 6 points from Monika Czinano vaulted the Hawks to a 28-17 1st quarter lead and the rout was on from there.
The second quarter started with a Clark and-1 right off the bat and Carver was rocking. For the next 3:30 though, the Hawkeyes showed the chink in their armor other than their defense. The stretch included 3 turnovers for Iowa, all of which were unforced. While Iowa is in their element playing a fast paced style of run and gun offense, things were a little bit out of control at times. After the under four media timeout however, Iowa came back out with the controlled speed that earned them a 2 seed in this years tournament and a second straight BIG Tournament championship. The Hawks would end the half on a 17-5 run effectively putting the game out of the reach for the Lions. Clark led all scorers with 19 points at the half. Again, what a miserable performance.
The second half script was similar to the opening period as the combo of Czinano and Clark were responsible for the opening 7 points and from there, role players Hannah Stuelke and Addison O’Grady showed that the future is indeed bright in Iowa City. Both players gained valuable tournament experience which will be crucial if the Hawks are to reach the heights they believe that they can. The duo would end the game a perfect 8-8 from the floor and 10 rebounds combined. Clark would end the game leading all scorers with 26 points while adding a cool 12 assists and 7 rebounds. Czinano to her credit finished with 22 points on 10-12 shooting and 8 boards.
Moving forward, Iowa will need to find more production from players like Mckenna Warnock (6pts), Kate Martin (5pts), and Gabbie Marshall whose only points were a game opening three. It wasn’t needed today, but against the Hawkeyes next opponent, the defensive minded Georgia Bulldogs, these three Hawkeye greats will need to have more of an impact.
At the end of the day though, Hawkeye fans were treated to an exceptional performance and tournament victory from arguably both the best and healthiest sports program the University of Iowa has to offer. And hey, things could always be worse. We could all be on the 13 hour bus ride out of Iowa City. And that would be “miserable.”