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

No. 2 Iowa women’s basketball collapses in fourth quarter, falls to Nebraska

Caitlin Clark did not score in the final period.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Nebraska forward Natalie Potts celebrates with teammates after a women’s basketball game between No. 2 Iowa and Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb., on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. The Cornhuskers defeated the Hawkeyes, 82-79.

LINCOLN, Nebraska — The No. 2 Iowa women’s basketball team held a 69-55 lead over the Nebraska Cornhuskers to start the fourth quarter. Ten minutes of game clock later, Caitlin Clark was shuffling off of the floor around the mob of red at center court, untucking her jersey with her eyes pointed down toward her feet.

Nebraska showed hints at a refusal to sink down, shy away, and give up to Iowa’s persistent force on both ends of the floor even as the Hawkeyes jumped out to a handful of double-digit leads throughout Sunday afternoon’s game.

The close of the third quarter saw Cornhusker forward Alexis Markowski drill two big threes down the stretch to keep the game from getting too out of hand as Iowa pulled away, but a confident Clark three from the top of the key put a close on that.

That three marked her 31st point today, putting her just eight points shy of surpassing Kelsey Plum’s record to become the NCAA Division I women’s basketball career scoring leader with one quarter to play. History was well in reach.

“It has not been a distraction at all,” Clark said of the record. “It is what it is. It’s what comes with territory. But when it happens, it happens. It’s really not going to affect my life that much.”

And as momentum was in Hawkeye hands to close the contest, the Black and Gold up 14 with that three, opponents know it’s hard to run with this Iowa team for a full 40 minutes. Today, the Cornhuskers did just that.

And Clark didn’t find the bottom of the bucket once in the fourth.

The Nebraska defense switched to a box-and-one defense for the final quarter, which kept the Iowa offense stagnant and Clark reliant on guard Kate Martin and forward Hannah Stuelke to score as she was unable to crack the zone herself.

“We have plenty of capable scorers on our team that can get overlooked,” Clark said. “That’s what a box-and-one is: They’re going to take me away; they’re going to make me take hard shots. It’s just finding ways for other people to get open … We just didn’t execute.”

So the Cornhuskers capitalized, remaining calm and patient in their halfcourt offense until good looks arose and ultimately fell in through the rim, especially from guard Jaz Shelley in her total takeover.

The Australian graduate student nailed two massive threes down the stretch to shrink Iowa’s lead to four before taking it over at 78-77, making it Iowa’s ball down one with 30 seconds left on the shot clock and 30.2 on the game clock.

In essence, Iowa could hold for the last attempt, and a bucket could seal the game.

But Clark took the ball at the helm of the Iowa offense at the top of the key and — after just 10 seconds — launched the ball up toward the rim from way beyond the three-point arc, a look Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said was intentionally designed for her in the moment.

Shelley, guarding Clark closely for much of the night, turned — wide-eyed — to watch the ball spin toward the rim as Pinnacle Bank Arena held its breath for a split second.

The shot collided with the front iron and fell short and ultimately into Nebraska’s possession.

Again, Shelley stepped up big for the Cornhuskers with a pair of free throws. And a pair again after Stuelke’s layup, Shelley’s final two connections from the charity stripe extending Nebraska’s lead to 82-79 — and giving the Hawkeyes another shot to send it to overtime.

A three each from Clark and Martin gave the No. 2 Hawkeyes their final chance to escape Lincoln with a win, but like much of the final quarter that saw Iowa score just 10 total points, nothing fell. The buzzer sounded, and Cornhusker fans flooded center court in celebration.

The 12-2 Nebraska run over the last three minutes of the game and one Iowa connection over its last seven field goal attempts still settling over the Hawkeyes’ heads, they froze around their bench and awkwardly watched on as the mass at halfcourt grew.

But it soon clicked: The game was over. The Hawkeyes had fallen apart late. So they shuffled off of the floor and toward the locker room in a straggling line of defeat.

With her security guard closeby, Clark untucked her jersey and let it drop to her sides with her head down and eyes pointed at the wood moving by just in front of her two feet.

“I’m just going to keep going about my business as I have for the past four years and pointing to my teammates every single day and hopefully leading this team to reach our goals,” Clark said. “That’s where my focus lies. And I’ve been doing this long enough … I think I understand you can’t get too caught up in one loss.”

So those two feet took her into the tunnel, out of sight, and toward Michigan back in Iowa City on Thursday — where the record will fall but the loss cannot afford to still sting.

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About the Contributors
Colin Votzmeyer
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.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.