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College Basketball

Caitlin Clark, Real Hooper, Fears Nothing

IOWA CITY, IOWA- FEBRUARY 26: Guard Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates with forward Monika Czinano #25 after their match-up against the Indiana Hoosiers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, on February 26, 2023 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Caitlin Clark;Monika Czinano
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

This past weekend was a banner one for Iowa Hawkeyes basketball. The men's team was trailing Michigan State by 13 with 94 seconds left on Saturday, yet they pulled off a miraculous last-second comeback to win in overtime thanks to some uber-clutch shooting from Kris Murray and Payton Sandfort, and, of course, some tactical, priggish intimidation from coach Fran McCaffery. The day before, recent number-four pick Keegan Murray (Kris's twin brother) helped his team win one of the NBA's greatest regular-season games of all-time. But those Murray-centric feats of shooting heroism and beam illumination only set the table for the weekend's true headliner, Caitlin Clark.

On Sunday, Clark's sixth-ranked Iowa hosted the one-loss, Big Ten-leading, second-ranked Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana beat Iowa earlier this month, and would have completed the season sweep if not for Clark. The Hoosiers took what looked like an insurmountable lead with 0.8 seconds left after Mackenzie Holmes drew a dubious foul and converted two free throws. Clark urged the referees to make sure the clock was right, and thankfully they added enough time for her to destroy the Hoosiers.

This is a really nice out-of-bounds play, which coach Lisa Bluder said she borrowed from the Las Vegas Aces' playbook. As Clark said afterward, the inbounders' primary read was McKenna Warnock flashing to the rim after setting the first of two off-ball screens to spring Clark. That look may have been there had Indiana switched any of the pre-inbounds actions, but they tried to play Iowa straight up. Warnock's defender zipped around Monika Czinano's screen and followed her to the rim after her initial screen for Clark. Clark's defender, who had to face two screens, went over the first, only to try to duck the second and run straight into Czinano. The result? A wide-open look for the most dangerous shooter in the country. "Honestly, I thought it was money," Clark said when asked about the moments before the shot.

Clark was indeed money all game long, racking up 34 points, nine assists, nine boards, and, naturally, one logo shot. That's as good of a single-double as you will see all year, considering the competition and circumstances of the final three of those 34. Clark is bunched up with Madison Siegrist, Aliyah Boston, and Angel Reese at the top of the National Player of the Year race, and Clark's Iowa has more losses than any of the other contenders' teams. None of those other players have a signature moment as stunning as Clark's game-winner, though, and while this is a moderately subjective and non-load-bearing category, none of the other candidates are as real of a hooper. Let us hope voters care as much about that sort of thing as they should.

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