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. 4 Iowa women’s basketball jumps by Illinois behind efficient effort on both ends of the floor

Four Hawkeyes finished in double-digit scoring.
Grace Smith
Iowa fans cheer after Iowa guard Molly Davis scores during a basketball game between No. 4 Iowa and Illinois inside a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.

The No. 4 Iowa women’s basketball team jumped by the Illinois Fighting Illini, 101-85, in a well-rounded Hawkeye effort on both ends of the floor inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday.

After an 86-69 loss to No. 14 Indiana on Thursday that saw the Iowa offense have one of its least efficient performances of the season, this afternoon was much the opposite as four Hawkeyes finished in double-digit scoring and, moreover, the Black and Gold played as one unit.

Caitlin Clark compiled a triple-double of 24 points in addition to 15 boards and 10 assists, and forward Hannah Stuelke came next with 20 points and nine rebounds.

Guard Molly Davis was the X-factor, though, in today’s contest as her long-winded motor on both ends of the floor gave her 17 points and five assists with some crucial clamps on Illini guards. Fellow guard Kate Martin also finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and four assists.

“I just loved that other people stepped up tonight and took responsibility for those shots,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “And I love the balance that we had … We want this to happen. We want people to step up because it makes Caitlin’s job easier.”

A testament to that offensive efficiency is Iowa’s 28 assists and 50 percent shooting from the field and whopping 46 percent from deep.

Clark pushed the ball in transition to open the contest but remained rather patient, not forcing any extravagant passes or over-contested shots and awaiting the right look when it opened.

But a strong defensive stand from Davis — not letting her 5-foot-7 stature prevent her from smacking a big block and taking a charge soon after — early on made a 9-0 Hawkeye start.

And a Clark catch-and-shoot three from the top of the key quieted the 6-0 Illinois run in response, a run that showed the Illini’s persistence in attacking the paint and knocking down pull-up jumpers.

A pair of treys from guard Kylie Feuerbach came from swift Hawkeye ball movement, which also got Iowa’s bigs involved around the paint as the Illini were often too absorbed with the ball handler.

The “no ‘I’ in team” cliché continued in the second quarter as extra passes and advances in transition made buckets so easy for this Hawkeye offense. Davis was the main receiver of such progress as she totaled seven points in just three minutes.

Again, with the Illinois defense so consumed with the in-and-out dribbles of Clark, that left Stuelke wide open in the paint for finishes at the rim — and even reserve guard Taylor McCabe in the corner for a three. And Davis for another to make 12 in the half.

“It was such unselfish play [when] we reversed the ball and got a wide open layup for Hannah on the other side,” Bluder said. “So that’s the basketball we like to see.”

And as the ball went up toward the rim, uncontested again and again, the Illini only stared as it connected. 50-34, Hawkeyes, at half.

Slow and steady wins the race

A quicker Illini start to open the third quarter pushed the pace in favor of the visitors, Iowa’s lead shrinking to 11 amid a handful of sloppy turnovers. But a pair of confident threes from Clark almost single-handedly kept the Hawkeyes afloat throughout the middle of the quarter.

And Feuerbach hit her third three of the afternoon as she solidified her presence as a threat on the arc, but the Illini answered very well with aggressive attacks and penetrations each time the Hawkeyes tried to jump ahead on a run.

By the media timeout, Illinois held the quarter’s lead by five while Iowa’s lead in the game sat again at just 11.

The Hawkeyes re-fastened their grip on the pace of the game, forcing turnovers on defense and controlling the speed in the halfcourt offense for calm and open attempts.

And as things got chippy by the third quarter’s end, Clark reminded Illinois’ Makira Cook of the Iowa lead — 74-61 — on the scoreboard as the two exchanged words.

So Clark, Martin, and Davis all found the bottom of the bucket from three-point land in the first two minutes of the fourth, fueling that big Hawkeye run this offense can often go on for a 17-point lead. In fact, that lead capped off at 20 before an Illinois timeout after a steal and score from Davis.

A fake cut gave Clark a pretty open look for three to propel her well into the 20-point threshold, and she took a seat soon after to let her supporting cast ride the lead out until the final buzzer. 

“If people are physical enough in my space, I can use that to my advantage too, using change of speed [and] change of direction, setting up screens, things like that,” Clark said of her opponents’ defensive physicality.

So the Hawkeyes got back into winning ways with a 101-85 dub.

“Coming back here, you want to have a really good performance and feel really great about yourself going into the last week of regular season play, and I thought that’s exactly what we did,” Clark said. “We moved the ball well. We shared the ball. The amount of shots we took was evenly distributed pretty well … That’s what we’re going to need going forward.”

Up next

The 24-4 Hawkeyes will make the trip north to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a rematch with the Golden Gophers on Wednesday.

The two last squared off on Dec. 30, Iowa escaping with a 94-71 win behind 35 points from Clark and 19 from Stuelke.

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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.
Grace Smith
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.