Comeback effort not enough as Iowa women’s basketball takes first Big Ten loss at Illinois

The Illini shot 52 percent from the field in the 90-86 victory on Sunday.


Matt Sindt

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark takes the ball down court during a women’s basketball game between Iowa and Dartmouth at Carver-Hawkeyes Arena in Iowa City on Wednesday, Dec 21, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Big Green 92-54.

Sam Knupp, Sports Reporter

Illinois handed No. 12 Iowa women’s basketball a 90-86 loss on Sunday — their first of the Big Ten season. Going into the game, Iowa had won seven straight games against Illinois.

The Hawkeyes looked like they were poised to continue that streak at State Farm Center in Champaign after a quarter of play, leading Illinois 18-13 and shooting 7-for-15 from the floor.

But in the second quarter, the Illini took over. Illinois put up 31 points to Iowa’s 15 to take an 11-point lead going into halftime.

“I think Illinois is such an improved basketball team and sometimes you have to see it to believe it,” head coach Lisa Bluder said on the Hawkeye Radio Network Postgame Show. “We could see it on film, but I think our players didn’t realize just how good they were until that second quarter, when they just took over the game.”

Illinois guard Makira Cook specifically stood out with nine points in the quarter. She went on to score 20 on the day.

Coming out of halftime, Iowa came back with a vengeance, putting up 25 third-quarter points to cut the deficit to two. But the Hawkeyes were still lacking on defense as they gave up 23 to the Illini, putting the score at 67-58 with 10 minutes to play.

In the fourth quarter, Iowa clawed their way back again, and junior Caitlin Clark came alive.

Clark — who scored a cumulative 16 points in the first three quarters — matched that total in the fourth quarter, shooting 5-for-6 from the floor and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.

The junior cut the Illini’s lead to one point with just over six minutes left in the game with a deep 3-pointer, but head coach Lisa Bluder was forced to temporarily take her out shortly thereafter when Clark collected her fourth foul of the game.

Clark fouled out with just 18 seconds remaining in the game while rustling for a loose ball.

Big Picture

Sunday’s loss moves Iowa to 11-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten.

Bluder only played eight athletes on Sunday, and sophomore Sydney Affolter only played three minutes.

Bench points have been an issue for the Hawkeyes against stronger competition this season. Sunday was no different as Iowa’s bench only put up four points to Illinois’ 10.

Czinano has a big day

Fifth-year senior center Monika Czinano put up 24 points for the Hawkeyes on Sunday, shooting 11-for-18 and grabbing six rebounds.

The Clark and Czinano pairing combined for 56 of Iowa’s 86 points.

Defense an issue

Illinois made 52 percent of its field goals and 41 percent of its 3-pointers on Sunday, putting up a total of 90 points.

“We just really had trouble defending them, particularly in that second quarter,” Bluder said.

Bluder said Illinois did a good job crashing the boards and drawing fouls — the Illini had 11 offensive rebounds drew 17 fouls.

What’s Next?

Iowa will travel to Ann Arbor to take on No. 14 Michigan on Saturday. Michigan most recently lost to Ohio State on the road on Saturday and will take on Penn State on Tuesday before hosting the Hawkeyes.