Czinano, Clark ‘dynamic duo’ for Iowa women’s basketball

Point guard Caitlin Clark and center Monika Czinano led the nation in field goals made in 2020-21.


Grace Smith

Iowa women’s head basketball coach Lisa Bluder speaks with Big Ten Network broadcaster Mike Hall and players Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano during Big Ten Basketball Media Days at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa women’s basketball sophomore point guard Caitlin Clark found her partner in crime on the court last season: Senior center Monika Czinano.

Czinano and Clark were both named to the preseason All-Big Ten team preceding the 2021-22 season, with the point guard earning unanimous honors. Clark also garnered preseason Big Ten Player of the Year honors from league coaches.

The Hawkeye point guard and center pair topped the national leaderboard in field goals made in the 2020-21 season — Clark led Division I Women’s Basketball with 266, while Czinano took runner-up with 258.

“Caitlin led the country in field goals made, but Monika Czinano was No. 2 in the United States in field goals made,” head coach Lisa Bluder said at Iowa women’s basketball media day on Oct. 28. “To have the top two in the country wearing Iowa Hawkeye uniforms, they form quite a duo. 

“I believe that [Caitlin] and Monika are probably one of the best point guard-center duos in the country,” Bluder added. “When you look at the number of assists that Caitlin gets from feeding the ball to Monika, it’s pretty amazing.”

Clark led the nation with 214 assists in her freshman season — a Hawkeye record. The point guard often gives Czinano quality shots in the paint with her behind-the-back passes. Czinano was second on Iowa’s roster with 19.3 points per game last season.

“She is an amazing passer,” Czinano said. “She can thread the needle so well, but I just think she has this, like, innate abilities of — we always talk about passing up a good shot for a great chunk. Any shot Caitlin takes is going to be a good shot or a great shot. She has the ability to create space and stuff but she’s willing to sacrifice her good shot, that might be better than all of our good shots, for a great shot.”

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But Clark still led Iowa and the nation in points, notching 799 in her first year as a Hawkeye. The point guard’s assists contributed to Czinano’s nation-leading field goal percentage in 2020-21, as the center put 66.84 percent of her shots through the hoop. 

But Czinano couldn’t always read Clark’s unique pass game. When the pair started playing together at the beginning of last season, Clark frequently caught Czinano by surprise in practice.

 “I think at the beginning of last year, I nailed her in the face a couple times with some passes, just because she wasn’t really expecting them. But Monika honestly has really good hands. She knows the game super well,” Clark said. “She knows angles. She knows what I’m going to do even if I’m not looking at her and honestly, I think she’s one of the most underrated people in the country.”

The senior center, however, is used to learning the passing habits of her point guards. Czinano said when she played with former Hawkeye point guard Kathleen Doyle, she had to learn to receive Doyle’s no-look pass.

Now, Czinano anticipates her point guard’s pass in the paint to come from behind.

“Everybody has tendencies and it’s about kind of learning those,” Czinano said. “Caitlin loves the behind-the-back pass. So, I always had to be ready for that.”

Clark, Czinano, and the rest of the Hawkeyes will begin their season on Thursday with an exhibition matchup against Truman State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 6:30 p.m.