Defense pivotal in Iowa women’s basketball’s Big Ten Tournament Semifinal victory over Nebraska

The Hawkeyes held the Cornhuskers to just 31 points in the second half to claim a 83-66 victory and advance to the conference championship game.


Gabby Drees

Iowa celebrates after a basketball game between No. 2 Iowa and No. 6 Nebraska during the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN, on Saturday, March 5, 2022. The Hawkeyes beat the Cornhuskers 83-66.

Dawson Moore, Sports Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS — The No. 2 seeded Iowa women’s basketball team defeated No. 6 Nebraska, 83-66, in the semifinals of the the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday night to advance to its third conference tournament final in four years.

Iowa sophomore Caitlin Clark, the Big Ten Player of the Year, blazed the trail for the Hawkeyes, erupting with 41 points in the contest. Clark also grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists to help push the Hawkeyes to the next round.

Junior guard Kate Martin followed up her 15-point performance in the quarterfinal round against Northwestern on Friday with a strong outing for Iowa on Saturday night. Martin scored eight points while grabbing a team-leading 11 rebounds against the Cornhuskers. 

“It kind of helps when you have star players like Monika and Caitlin, it opens up the floor for me a little bit,” Martin said. “But more than anything, just pursuing the ball for rebounds, we talked about crashing all the time, and that kinda got away from me these last few games. So, that has really been my mindset going into games, just crashing and getting rebounds. I think I’ve been playing some good basketball right now, and I’m really confident.”

Big Picture

Iowa has punched its ticket to the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game for the second consecutive season.

The Hawkeyes lost to Maryland, 104-84, in the conference championship game in 2021.

ESPN’s Bracketology projects the Hawkeyes as a three seed in the NCAA tournament, and the win over the Cornhuskers has virtually cemented a hosting seed.

Defense, Defense, Defense

The Hawkeyes built off of their stout defensive performance against the Wildcats as Iowa held Nebraska to 66 points, including only 31 in the second half.

“When they switched their defense, we got a little bit stagnant,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said. “And then, we settled maybe a little bit too much for some perimeter shots when we really needed to continue to hunt the paint.”

Iowa forced Nebraska to shoot a meager 35 percent from the field. The Hawkeyes held the Cornhuskers to 3-of-26 from beyond the arc.  

“Tonight, I am really proud of our defensive effort,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Our three point defense was really good tonight. I mean, they came in and they’ve been shooting the ball really well from three point range in their first three games, and tonight they shot 11 percent from three point range, so I’m really happy with that.”

What’s Next

Iowa will have the opportunity on Sunday to be the first team in program history to win both the regular season Big Ten title as well as the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

Iowa will take on No. 6 Indiana in the tournament final.

The Hawkeyes swept the Hoosiers in back-to-back games in Big Ten play during the 2021-22 season, helping the Hawkeyes put themselves in a position to capture a share of the regular season conference championship.

This will be the third time in 15 days that Iowa will face off against Indiana.

The matchup will tipoff at 3 p.m at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will also air on ESPN2.