Everything went according to plan for the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes as they kicked off their season in style with a whopping defeat of Fairleigh Dickinson, 102-46. The Hawkeyes stormed out of the gates from the opening tip, playing as if they had been waiting for this moment after much anticipation and excitement.
It ultimately was a showcase of the collective effort that will help the team succeed as the season progresses and as they take on tougher opponents.
Four Hawkeyes scored in double figures. Caitlin Clark led the way with yet another double-double of 26 points and 10 assists. She also had seven rebounds and no turnovers. Nineteen of those points came in the first quarter alone. For the night, Clark went 4-for-9 from the 3-point line, as well as 2-for-3 from the free throw line. She set the tone early on for what was expected to come.
Hannah Stuelke finished with 22 points and led the team with nine rebounds. She shot 9-for-10 from the field and was perfect at the free throw line, going 3-for-3. She even added a 3-pointer to her tally, which gives her another weapon to add to her arsenal. “It is a huge confidence booster,” Stuelke said. “You work so hard to get better and it feels great to be able to do it in the game.”
Center Sharon Goodman entered the starting rotation after a three-year absence, which included an ACL injury. She more than made the most of it as she finished with 19 points and four rebounds, with 13 of those points coming in the third quarter. She was 7-for-8 from the field and was also perfect from the free throw line at 5-for-5. “It has been since February of 2020 that I started my last basketball game,” Goodman said. “I’m just grateful to my teammates and the coaches.”
Sydney Affolter came off the bench and provided 14 minutes of quality play that culminated in 11 points and six rebounds, while going 2-for-3 from the foul line. Addison O’Grady had nine points, Kate Martin had eight and Molly Davis added three. Davis also concluded the first quarter with a reverse layup off a deflection by Affolter that threw the crowd into a frenzy.
Some other notable takeaways include:
- Good movement with and without the ball leads to lots of assists: The Hawkeyes ran the floor well and were able to generate spacing to get off good shots. Their movement with and without the ball led to a total of 28 team assists off only seven turnovers.
- Subpar 3-point shooting: With the exception of Clark’s exploits and Stuekle’s singular shot, the Hawkeyes were meager at the 3-point line, shooting 21.4 percent. They compensated with a solid overall field goal percentage of 54.8 percent, a superb 76.2 percent from the free throw line and 66 points in the paint.
- A tidy two-hour game: The game started at 6:30 p.m. CST and the first half ended just short of a full hour. The whole game ended in under two. Part of that can be attributable to few timeouts, as well as the Hawkeyes’ fast-paced style of play that has become their trademark.
As they head to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on No. 8 Virginia Tech in the Ally Tipoff on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN 2), Iowa’s resolve will be put to the test earlier than expected, as the Hokies also advanced to last season’s Final Four. Virginia Tech also took care of business in their opener, dominating High Point 94-55.
But Clark says that she and the team are eager for the challenge and couldn’t have asked for a better time. “We are going to see where we are with Virginia Tech and a team that I think is very similar to the way we play basketball,” she said. “Very up tempo offensive minded team. So it is going to be a great challenge for us.
With that in mind, Coach Lisa Bluder emphasized the importance of perspective. “We are going in there and give it everything we have,“ she said. “But if we win, it is not the end of the season and if we lose it is not the end of the season. It is an opportunity for growth.”