Iowa women’s basketball overwhelmed by No. 1 seed UConn

After a 92-72 loss to UConn in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 Saturday, the Hawkeyes’ 2020-21 campaign officially came to an end.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark blocks UConn guard Paige Bueckers during the Sweet Sixteen NCAA women’s basketball championship against UConn on Saturday, March 27, 2021 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Huskies, 92-72. Clark and Bueckers played together on the U-17 and U-19 Team USA basketball team in high school, and both say they are still close friends.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

SAN ANTONIO — Iowa women’s basketball has not made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four since the 1992-93 season, and after a 92-72 loss to top-seeded UConn in the Sweet 16 Saturday, the Hawkeyes will have to wait another year before they receive their next opportunity to reach the pinnacle of their sport.

For most of Saturday’s game, the Hawkeyes trailed the Huskies by 10 points or less. A late 12-2 UConn run, however, exaggerated the result of the contest.

“I know that the final score is not indicative of what this game was or how I think either coach probably felt during the game,” Hawkeye head coach Bluder said. “I feel like UConn did a great job scoring, but I do think we gave them a little bit of help in that area too many times today. They’re good players. They’re going to take advantage of any miscue or mental lapse that you have. And they did that to us.”

Iowa’s defense struggled on Saturday, and the Huskies controlled the paint as a result — outscoring the Hawkeyes down low, 46-26.

In the post, the Hawkeyes were at a bit of a size disadvantage, as UConn’s center Olivia Nelson-Ododa stands at 6-foot-5 and Iowa center Monika Czinano tops out at 6-foot-3.

“I think, other than tonight, really, our defense had improved a lot, especially our man-to-man defense,” freshman point guard Caitlin Clark said. “I thought that had grown so much … Obviously, when a team scores over 90 points, it’s still going to be hard for us to win even though we do put up pretty big numbers on the offensive side of the ball.”

Despite Saturday’s loss, Bluder is looking forward to the 2021-22 season that will see all of Iowa’s 2020-21 starters return.

Bluder’s team sported a young starting lineup in 2020-21, with just one 2019-20 starter returning — Czinano.

Clark and sophomores Gabbie Marshall, McKenna Warnock, and Kate Martin all started full-time for the first time in their young college careers in 2020-21.

“I can’t tell you how far this team has come from the beginning of the year,” Bluder said. “It was a hard year, as far as the pandemic and testing all the time, having those extra responsibilities, not being able to be together at team functions like we usually are. But I believe wholeheartedly that we have just touched the surface and this team can go farther in the NCAA Tournament than we did this year. I believe that completely.”

The Hawkeyes were not in the NCAA Tournament picture when the season started in November. But Iowa rallied from preseason unranked to the Big Ten Tournament finals, to the NCAA Sweet 16.

“That’s the reason I came here, because there was a true belief, we were going to make the Final Four someday,” Clark said. “We didn’t say we were going to do it in my first year. We knew it was going to be a process. We had to put all the pieces together. To see what we did this year with nobody believing in us — we believed in ourselves, everybody in the locker room, the coaches, the girls … I think that really showed at the end of the season, through the Big Ten tournament, obviously the NCAA Tournament. To get to where we got is really something special. Obviously, a lot to be proud of this season.”