【zlomila nohu】Iowa wins Big Ten tourney behind Caitlin Clark's 10th career triple
Guard Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes didn't just win the Big Ten women's basketball tournament Sunday. They put on an offensive exhibition that is likely to boost their status come Selection Sunday.
The junior Clark got her 10th career triple-double, her fourth this season, in No. 2 seed Iowa's 105-72 victory over the No. 4 seed Ohio State Buckeyes. Clark had 30 points, 17 assists and 10 rebounds. She is second in NCAA women's history in triple-doubles, behind the 26 that former Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu, currently with the New York Liberty, had from 2016-2020.
It was the first triple-double in the final of the Big Ten women's tournament, which began in 1995.
"It is a special accomplishment," Clark said. "But I truly mean it doesn't happen without every single person in the locker room. So, I'm thankful for them."
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Iowa's 105 points and the 33-point margin of victory are championship game records for the Big Ten tournament. Both of those marks were previously set in 2021, when the Maryland Terrapins beat Iowa 104-84 in Clark's freshman season. The Hawkeyes still went on to the Sweet 16 that year.
Then last season, they beat the Indiana Hoosiers 74-67 for the Big Ten tournament title but were upset in the NCAA second round by the Creighton Bluejays. Iowa is hoping this year's Big Ten tournament title leads to a longer NCAA tournament run.
The Hawkeyes seem to be peaking at the right time, with four victories after a 96-68 loss at Maryland on Feb. 21. That was their season low in points and kept them from a chance at tying Indiana for the Big Ten regular-season title.
Still, the Hawkeyes bounced back from that disappointment by beating the Hoosiers 86-85 in the regular-season finale Feb. 26 on Clark's buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Iowa sold out that game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and many of those fans made the drive to Minneapolis for the Big Ten tournament in which Target Center sounded like Carver North for all of Iowa's games. The crowd roared when Clark completed the triple-double with a rebound in the fourth quarter.
Iowa beat Purdue 69-58 in Friday's quarterfinal. In Saturday's third meeting with Maryland -- the teams split games during the regular season -- Iowa won 89-84 by making a season-best 15 3-pointers.
But the Hawkeyes saved the best for Sunday, racing out to a 61-24 halftime lead over the Buckeyes. That 37-point halftime margin was the biggest by any women's team against a ranked foe this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Iowa finished the game shooting 62.1% from the field, with Monika Czinano following Clark with 26 points on 11 of 12 shooting from the field.
"We weren't regular-season champs this year," Clark said. "So we came here with something on our minds that we really wanted to get. This was one of our goals."
Clark entered the game tied with former Lamar Cardinals standout Chastadie Barrs (2015-2019) with nine career triple-doubles. Clark, who scored or assisted on 68 of Iowa's 105 points Sunday, is the only women's player to have three triple-doubles of 30 or more points in Division I history. She was 9-of-17 from the field, including 5 of 11 from behind the arc, and 7-of-8 from the foul line.
"I get to see incredible stuff every day in practice," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of Clark. "She continues to surprise us. But when she got that last rebound and she raced down the court with the biggest grin on her face, like that's joy. To be able to play like that is so much fun, and I admire her for that. She's so competitive, but she loves the game so much."
Clark also topped the 2,500-point mark during Sunday's game. Clark, who now has 2,526 points, reached the mark in 94 games, tying her with former Delaware Blue Hens star Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics as the fastest women's or men's Division I player to hit 2,500 points in the last 20 seasons.
Clark is also the only player in women's or men's basketball over the last 20 seasons to have at least 25 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a game, and she's done it twice, both this season.
The Hawkeyes, 26-6, are currently projected as a No. 2 seed by ESPN's Charlie Creme, and there is still one more Power 5 conference tournament on the women's side as the Big 12 plays this coming week. But Clark hopes the Hawkeyes have made believers of the NCAA committee. Iowa has beaten two projected No. 1 seeds, Indiana and Maryland, in the past week.
"I don't know how that wouldn't earn you a 1 seed, but I'm not the one that makes those decisions," Clark said. "All we could do was control the game right in front of us. I'm really proud of this group."