Iowa women’s basketball wins rematch against Michigan State, advances to Big Ten Championship

For the second time in three years, Iowa will play Maryland for the Big Ten title.


Kate Heston

Iowa Guard Caitlin Clark (22) takes a shot during a semifinal game of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament. Iowa, ranked No. 6, took on No. 7 seeded Michigan State in Indianapolis at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday afternoon. The Hawks beat the Spartans, 87-72, advancing the Hawks to take on Maryland Saturday in the Big 10 finals. (Kate Heston/The Daily Iowan)

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS — In a rematch of the Hawkeyes’ first Big Ten game of the 2020-21 campaign, Iowa women’s basketball took on the Michigan State Spartans in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

On Dec. 12, Iowa’s inexperienced starting lineup dropped the Big Ten season opener, 86-82, in East Lansing.

Three months later, the Hawkeyes won when it mattered the most, defeating the Spartans, 87-72, to advance to the championship game of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Two Hawkeyes posted double-doubles on the night: sophomore guard McKenna Warnock tallied 17 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman point guard Caitlin Clark tacked on 20 points and 11 assists.”

“We always felt we played Michigan State at a bad time [in December],” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It wasn’t the best time to go on the road and play them. It was always kind of eating at me, that game, that we lost that game to them… It’s always nice to be in these situations and get that redemption.”

Iowa’s redemption is thanks to the Hawkeyes’ increased synergy on and off the court — with the COVID-19 pandemic still in play, the athletes have only hung out with each other throughout the entire season, making for a lot of time to bond.

“It’s kind of been forced,” Bluder said. “And I guess that wouldn’t be good if you didn’t like each other, but luckily, we like each other. They like hanging out with each other, they have fun together… when you’re not tired of each other this time of year, that’s a good thing.”

The Hawkeyes have another rematch on their hands on Saturday — No. 1 seed Maryland. In the only regular-season matchup on Feb. 23, the Hawkeyes competed for the final 30 minutes of the game, but the Terrapins dominated the first quarter, going up 41-21 after 10 minutes. The disastrous first quarter proved to be Iowa’s downfall, losing 111-93.

Now, the Hawkeyes know they have to be on guard for the entire 40 minutes.

The championship game will be a high-scoring affair, as Maryland sits at the top of the country in scoring, averaging 91 points per game. Iowa clocks in directly behind at the No. 2 spot, with an 86.7 points per game average.

“You can’t let up for one minute of the game,” Clark said. “If you do that, they can score 10 points like this and the game will be over. I think defense is going to be our biggest focus, we’re always fine on offense. Their first five players are all averaging double figures, so it’s going to take every single person on our team to lock in, be focused.”

But no matter what happens in the championship, it’s going to be “good basketball.”

“I think it’s going to be a great game,” Clark said. “This is what you love, this is why you play basketball. The Big Ten is the best conference in the country, so I’m excited.”

Iowa will tip off against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game on Saturday at 1 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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