Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN 2) has the potential to become another notable chapter in the illustrious history of women’s basketball in the state of Iowa.
The irrepressible and emboldened junior guard Caitlin Clark, the Big 10 Player of the Week and the nation’s leading scorer at 28.2 points per game, and the No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3) welcome the steady and sure senior wing Ashley Joens, averaging 19.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, and the No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones (6-1) to Iowa City for an intrastate showdown.
Sharpshooting, especially from deep, defines both squads.
While Clark is celebrated for how she launches 3 pointers with a Curry-esque casual confidence, Joens, considered more comfortable working methodically from the midrange, actually is shooting better from three. The eldest Joens has increased her 3-point attempt rate this season, taking three per game while maintaining a conversion rate of better than 37 percent. Clark is shooting just under 33 percent from behind the arc while making 2.8 treys per game.
As a team, the Cyclones take more 3-balls per game, ranking sixth in the nation with more than 30.7. In addition to Joens, junior guard Lexi Donarski is draining a pair of triples per game, with junior guard Emily Ryan and senior big Stephanie Soares adding one each.
For the Hawkeyes, senior wing McKenna Warnock, shooting better than 41 percent from distance, is contributing an average of at least two triples per game. Senior guard Kate Martin has turned in a career-best 3-point shooting season, highlighted by the six long balls she swished in a loss to then-No. 3 UConn.
However, what happens inside the arc could determine which team prevails.
Iowa fifth-year senior big Monika Czinano operates with enviable efficiency as an interior scorer, savvily getting buckets as she sinks more than 67 percent of her field goals and scores 16 points per game.
Yet, the Rebecca Lobo-approved Stephanie Soares, who arrived in Ames this season after tearing up the NAIA for Masters’ University, could alter Czinano’s effectiveness. The 6-foot-6 Soares has emerged as an elite paint presence for Iowa State, swatting more than three shots per game.
Although Soares has not transformed the Cyclones into an elite defense, she adds an element of defense deterrence that the Hawkeyes severely lack, evidenced by their 293rd defensive ranking and the more than 70 points per game they allow. Thus, not only can Soares potentially shut off Czinano on one end of the floor, but she also could feast on the other end of the floor, possibly topping her season-best 23 points.
No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones (6-1, 0-0 Big 12) vs. No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3, 1-0 Big 10)
When: Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa
How to watch: ESPN 2
Key to the matchup: If the game goes down to the wire, expect Iowa State to have the edge. The Cyclones are the nation’s fifth-best team from the free throw line, nailing 81.2 percent of their freebies. At 92.3 percent from the line, Emily Ryan sits in the top 25 nationwide, while Ashley Joens is hitting almost 91 percent from the foul line. On the other side, Caitlin Clark’s 82.4 percent effort is not too shabby. But, Monika Czinano is converting less than 65 percent of her attempts.