Iowa Is The Truth
9:28 AM EDT on March 27, 2023
The 10th rebound? Borderline. It snuck onto the stat sheet with a minute left to play. Caitlin Clark swatted a Louisville miss toward a teammate, and some scorekeeper may have indulged us a little. Who cares? The nine rebounds before it, the 12 assists, the 41 points—those were undeniable, and they excused whatever rebound fudging came next. Clark led Iowa to the program's first Final Four in 30 years on Sunday night, recording the first 40-point triple-double in the history of the NCAA tournaments in the team's 97-83 win over Louisville. "It's like a storybook," said Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder. "She is spectacular. I don't know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court. A 40-point triple double against Louisville to go to the Final Four? Are you kidding? I mean, it's mind-boggling."
A star player's mind-boggling stat line is usually poor occasion to praise the rest of the roster. Only after Iowa's 31st and 32nd points had Clark not scored or assisted every one of her team's baskets. She responded to Louisville's eight-point opening run with a seven-point scoring run of her own. But where Clark's most impressive box scores have felt in past years like doomed acts of heroism, her best games are increasingly her teammates' best games also. Against Louisville, Iowa showed off the adaptable offense it has all postseason, this time working to make up the points usually provided inside by center Monika Czinano, who spent much of the game in foul trouble. The "Law Firm of Clark & Czinano" closed for business, Clark found her assists elsewhere: The team's other three starters—McKenna Warnock, Kate Martin, and Gabbie Marshall—shot a combined 8-of-20 from three. "I don't know that I could have thought of coming in and winning this game and Monika only having two baskets," said Bluder. Warnock cited a chemistry earned by this lineup having started 90 games together. "Just our ability to be able to know every move that the other person is going to do," she said.
Clark included a bit of self-scouting in her postgame interview with ESPN. She conceded this team was not the fastest, not the most athletic, and not the best on defense. Those weaknesses—and Iowa's last two early tournament exits—have inspired some healthy skepticism of what this team's ceiling really is. They may well be exposed in Iowa's next game, against the winner of tonight's matchup between South Carolina and Maryland, two battle-tested athletic teams. But on nights like these, when Clark and a couple of her teammates are in the zone, Iowa feels like the real deal. Sunday night's other Elite Eight game, a low-scoring shot-missing clinic between LSU and Miami, sent James Naismith rolling in his grave. ("If I was watching this game, I'd turn it off," Kim Mulkey said in a sideline interview, the most insightful thing she's ever said.) But Iowa granted him eternal rest once again. "I play this game because I love it," said Clark. "It brings joy to me, and it brings a lot of joy to other people because our team is so fun to watch."
RecommendedCaitlin Clark, Real Hooper, Fears Nothing
Thanks for reading!
Register or log in to continue.See all subscription options.
Stay in touch
Sign up for our free newsletter