Iowa women’s basketball’s Caitlin Clark, Lisa Bluder advocate for passionate play

After Caitlin Clark was called for a technical foul for saying ‘damn it’, she advocated to let women’s basketball players play with fire.



Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder grabs guard Caitlin Clark’s hand during a women’s basketball game between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 93-64.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Iowa women’s basketball junior guard Caitlin Clark plays with passion on the floor. But lately, her passion has been penalized.

Clark received a technical foul for saying “damn it” to herself after missing a shot against Northwestern on Jan. 11. While the technical foul didn’t affect the outcome of the game — the Wildcats missed both technical free throws and the Hawkeyes won, 93-64 — the All-American was still frustrated with the call.

“It’s kind of frustrating, but that’s how things go sometimes,” Clark said postgame. “In women’s basketball, people need to play with passion, people need to play with fire. That’s what it’s about, that’s who I am … that’s what draws people to the game, that’s what draws people to our team. We’re excited, we’re fun, we’re competitive. That’s why women’s basketball is great, and that’s why it’s going to grow.”

Raygun — a T-shirt company that makes trending shirts in Iowa City — quickly produced a black shirt with the words “damn it” printed in gold lettering. Clark posed with a fan wearing the shirt at Iowa’s game against Penn State on Jan. 14.

Clark was hit with an intentional foul on Jan. 18 when Iowa traveled to East Lansing, Michigan, to play Michigan State.

The Hawkeyes were up three points, 82-79, with five seconds left in overtime when she was called for pushing a Michigan State player. The call gave Michigan State two free throws and possession of the ball, potentially changing the outcome of the game, but Iowa escaped with an 84-81 win.

“Caitlin gets held — she gets grabbed, pinched — the whole game,” head coach Lisa Bluder said Sunday. “I don’t know how Caitlin keeps her composure. I couldn’t do it.

“Emotions get hot in those situations, and she reacted,” Bluder added. “I always tell her, ‘The second reaction, the second action, gets called.’ It’s not the first action; it’s the second action, and that’s what is really brutal about our game.”

Bluder added the official could have stopped the jostling that led to Clark’s push at any time, but he chose not to. And that type of officiating wouldn’t happen in the men’s game, she said.

“I will defend Caitlin until the day I die. She puts up with so much on the floor,” Bluder said. “And I just can’t believe that we let that happen to her. I just don’t think it would happen to one of the best men’s basketball players in the country. I don’t, and unfortunately, she has to put up with a whole lot.”

Women’s basketball players across the Power Five conferences have also been speaking out against what they believe are unjust calls.

Angel Reese, LSU’s leading scorer with 15.6 points per game and blocker with 28, blocked a shot against Arkansas while holding one of her shoes.

Reese was called for a technical foul for staring down the blocked shot. After the game, which LSU won, 79-76, Reese called to normalize showing passion in the game.

Sometimes, passion can come in the form of trash talking an opponent, Bluder said. But she thinks if that’s what a player has to do, it doesn’t matter to her.

“If people want to trash talk, that’s up to them,” Bluder said. “That doesn’t matter to me. If that’s what you want to do, if that’s what you think you have to do to impose your will upon somebody else, so be it. I never ask because it doesn’t matter to me.”