Caitlin Clark, Iowa survive and advance in NCAA tourney

Caitlin Clark dropped 32 points to lead the Hawkeyes to a 64-54 win over West Virginia on Monday night in Iowa City.

West Virginia came so close to shutting down Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes on Monday night.

But after a tight fourth quarter, Clark managed to will No. 1 Iowa to a narrow win in her final contest at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to secure a return trip to the Sweet 16.

Clark and the Hawkeyes edged out No. 8 West Virginia 64-54 in their second round NCAA tournament matchup in Iowa City on Monday night. Though it was a very uncharacteristic game for the Hawkeyes all around — they were held to just six points in the second quarter, hit just one field goal in the fourth quarter and couldn’t get much offense outside of Clark all night — Clark dropped 32 points to set up a Sweet 16 matchup with No. 5 Colorado next weekend in Albany.

Clark also passed Kelsey Plum and broke the NCAA Division-I single-season scoring record in the win, marking just her latest accolade in what has already been a historic season. She’s now scored 1,113 points this season alone.

Caitlin Clark, Iowa survive late West Virginia push

While West Virginia came out hot and landed the first punch, it didn’t last long. The Hawkeyes closed the first quarter on a 15-4 run, and they held the Mountaineers without a field goal for the final 4:30 of the period to grab a five-point advantage at the first break.

The Mountaineers largely shut down the Iowa offense in the second quarter, however, and left Clark frustrated as she went to the bench just before halftime. West Virginia outscored Iowa 9-6 in the period, which cut Iowa’s lead to just two points at the break. Iowa didn’t score in the final 4:50 of the quarter, and the Hawkeyes went just 3-of-12 from behind the arc in the first half. All three makes belonged to Clark. It marked the lowest halftime score the Hawkeyes have had all season.

But whatever issues Clark and the Hawkeyes had in the second quarter stayed there. They opened the third on a 12-2 tear, and Clark put them back up by double digits almost instantly on a deep wide-open 3-pointer.

The Hawkeyes then converted back-to-back and-ones late in the period, and Kate Martin drilled a pair of free throws to end the quarter, to combat a brief West Virginia push.

But once again, Iowa’s offense stalled out. The Hawkeyes went more than four minutes without scoring in the fourth quarter, and West Virginia tied it up off a huge Jayla Hemingway 3-pointer just before the five minute mark.

Finally, almost eight minutes into the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes made their first field goal of the period. After a Gabbie Marshall block, Sydney Affolter converted a clutch layup and subsequent free throw on the other end to put the Hawkeyes up by three.

That was, remarkably, the only field goal the Hawkeyes made in the quarter. But they hit seven free throws the rest of the way while holding West Virginia to a single bucket to grab the 10-point win.

JJ Quinerly led West Virginia with 15 points in the loss. Kyah Watson added 13 points and seven rebounds, and Hemingway finished with 10 points off the bench.

Clark had eight rebounds and three assists to go with her 32 points in the win. She shot just 5-of-14 from the 3-point line, and was the only Iowa player to hit from behind the arc. Affolter finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and Hannah Stuelke added 12 points and 11 rebounds. Marshall was held scoreless after going 0-of-4 from the field.

The Hawkeyes will now move on to Albany, where No. 5 Colorado will be waiting for them in the Sweet 16 on Saturday. The Buffaloes upset No. 4 Kansas State in Manhattan 63-50 in their second round matchup on Sunday to secure their second straight trip to the regional semifinals.

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