The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa women’s basketball notebook | Hawkeyes march toward March with tests in Penn State, Nebraska

The fast-paced Nittany Lion offense has four active players averaging double-digits.
Grace Smith
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark and Iowa guard Kate Martin celebrate a play by Iowa guard Molly Davis during a women’s basketball game between No. 3 Iowa and Maryland at a sold-out Xfinity Center in College Park, Md., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 93-85.

The No. 2 Iowa women’s basketball team marches closer to March — and the end of the 2023-24 regular season — with tests against Penn State and Nebraska this week.

The Hawkeyes, 21-2 overall, are up from third to second in the latest AP Poll after sneaking by Maryland, 93-85, on Feb. 3. That win came behind a 12-assist, 38-point performance from Caitlin Clark on a red-hot seven three-pointers as she fired confidently from across the floor almost all evening.

That puts the West Des Moines local 66 points shy of Kelsey Plum for the top spot as the NCAA women’s basketball all-time leading scorer as Iowa heads first into a contest against Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday.

The Nittany Lions are a sneaky solid team this season who bring very strong potential to upset a top-ranked team such as the Hawkeyes as they currently sit at 16-6 overall and 7-4 in conference play this season with notable wins over Kansas, Maryland, and Minnesota.

With a one-point loss to now-No. 10 USC early in the season as well as an overtime defeat to now-No. 5 Ohio State on Dec. 10, Penn State has proven it’s more than capable of hanging with the best of the best even despite coming off of a five-point loss to Michigan on Feb. 3.

The Nittany Lions are one of the more well-rounded offenses the Hawkeyes will see all season, averaging a massive 86.7 points per game to opponents’ 69.2 for a margin in their favor by a whopping 17.5.

PSU is shooting 51 percent from the field, 41 percent from three, and 74 percent from the free throw line behind a handful of guards who propel an offense that operates on small ball.

The Nittany Lions enjoy a very wide scoring effort — in which five players are averaging double-digits — that in turn makes this offense a multi-faceted force that needs to be defensively addressed from all angles.

“They just play really hard no matter what the score is — no matter what they have for a record, they’re going to play hard,” Iowa assistant coach Abby Stamp said, emphasizing the need for good Iowa shot selection to slow the pace. “They’re going to press you. They’re going to rotate well on defense. They’re going to try to make you make mistakes, and then they’re going to play fast.”

That PSU offense is now led by 2021 third-team All-American guard Ashley Owusu, who has been a breakout leader in playing seven games this season upon returning from injury.

Owusu is averaging 18.3 points per game and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 35 percent from deep and 50 percent from the field, and fellow guard Makenna Marisa is following her with 15.1 points per game — on 50 percent from the field, 43 percent from three, and 83 percent from the charity stripe.

Guard Shay Ciezki has one of the highest offensive volumes on the team — and for a valid reason as she averages 14.2 points per game on 44 percent from the field, 40 percent from deep, and 90 percent from the free throw line, not to mention her 61 assists this season.

While guard Tay Valladay is very efficient as she is averaging 11.5 points per game on 57 percent from the field and 53 percent from three, she is sidelined with a knee injury sustained last week. 

So guard Leilani Kapinus has proven even more efficient as she is averaging 10.8 a game on a wowing 62 percent from the field and 46 percent from three despite only making just over half of her free throws.

Still, the latter averages six rebounds per game and has amassed 49 steals and 25 blocks on the other end of the floor to make her a dual threat, but her 53 turnovers this season could make her a liability should the Hawkeye defense continue to play as energetically as it has lately.

As for before and after shots go up on the floor, the Nittany Lions are averaging 36.4 rebounds per game and 18.2 assists per game on a poorer average of 16.8 turnovers.

But with PSU averaging 10 steals per game and 23.7 points off of turnovers per game on the other end, the Black and Gold must prioritize ball security to maximize possessions and break down an active Penn State backcourt.

“We’re expecting a fast-paced game, and it’s a great opportunity,” Stamp said. “An NCAA Tournament team — I absolutely think they are. Any time we have one of those coming into Carver-Hawkeye Arena, that’s a big night for us.”

Out west

Just three days later, the Hawkeyes will be in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Super Bowl Sunday for a rematch with the Nebraska Cornhuskers — who they beat, 92-73, on Jan. 27.

That successful Iowa contest was led by 38 points from Clark as well as 16 from guard Kate Martin and 12 from fellow guard Sydney Affolter — but it was slightly undermined by 31 rebounds to the Huskers’ 40.

The Cornhuskers are bigger and can board the ball as well as anyone in the Big Ten, which could this time prove costly should they hit shots a bit better in front of a home crowd than they did inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

At 6-foot-3, forward Alexis Markowski had 11 of those rebounds last time around in addition to her 17 points, and guard Jaz Shelley scored 15 on five threes.

Now 15-8 overall and 7-5 in the conference, Nebraska has been in the middle of the road, since beating Purdue by 14 but losing to Rutgers by one.

And a matchup against Michigan on Feb. 6 saw the Cornhuskers gather some momentum for the rematch with the Hawkeyes in a 65-59 win.

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About the Contributors
Colin Votzmeyer, Assistant Sports Editor
Colin Votzmeyer is a junior at the University of Iowa studying journalism and mass communication with minors in history and criminology, law, and justice. Prior to his role as assistant sports editor, he previously served as digital producer, news reporter covering crime, cops, and courts, and sports reporter covering track and field and women's basketball. He plans on attending law school after his graduation with hopes of pursuing a career as a criminal defense attorney.
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.