Many were expecting the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes to go the easy way and roundly defeat Loyola Chicago before Christmas. Ultimately, that is what happened, with the Hawkeyes winning 98-69. But, the visiting Ramblers made them go the hard way.
Throughout much of the first half, the Hawkeyes were forced to play at a much slower pace. The Ramblers took it to them by doing everything it took to slow things down and over power with strong defense. As a result, the Hawkeyes turned the ball over on 10 occasions in the first half, mostly in transition. They also weren’t making the shots that they normally would, whereas the Ramblers were shooting close to 50 percent from the field and were decent from the 3-point line as the Hawkeye defense was sagging.
However, the Hawkeyes came alive in the second half, outscored the Ramblers 46-23 for the convincing but hard-fought victory.
The win was in large part due to the efforts of the following four:
Before the eyes of the Indiana Fever coaching staff that were in attendance, Clark came away with another triple double: 35 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. She also surpassed Minnesota’s Rachel Banham for eighth on the NCAA all-time scoring list.
After the game, she took off her “reverse grinch” Nike shoes that she wore specifically for this game before Christmas and gave them to a little girl named Norah. It was the first-ever Iowa game for Noarh, who dressed up as Clark for Halloween.
“I wish I could make time for every single kid that is standing there screaming my name, I really do,” she said. “It’s really cool if I could make somebody’s year or month or second. I want to be able to try to do that, even if it’s a couple autographs. Hopefully, she cherishes those shoes and puts them on the shelf somewhere.”
The “glue” of the team held it down as she played with the gritty relentlessness that has become her trademark. She finished with 19 points, four rebounds and two assists while shooting 55 percent from the field. She also was solid from beyond the arc, going 3-for-5, and was perfect at the free throw line, going 4-for-4.
As the one who keeps everyone together, she spoke about the change in mindset at the half:
I think we just tried to build each other up at halftime. We were a little disappointed in how we came out. I am a little disappointed in my leadership there with how we started the game. I can be a lot more vocal together a little bit better in that first half. We knew what we needed to do.
The dynamic forward was just exactly that—dynamic. She finished with 20 points and grabbed eight boards. She shot 60 percent from the field and was mostly in the right place at the right time in the paint and in transition.
In the starting rotation to replace Gabbie Marshall, who was out with an illness, “the grittiest of the gritty” best sums up the playing style of Affolter. She resembles Martin in that regard. The approach produced 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists. She also made sure to get the foul line when she could and was 4-for-5 from the stripe.
Another notable performance was that of Kylie Feuerbach. She was a tremendous asset on defense, drawing a couple of charges that helped the Hawkeye defense when they were in a jam. She finished with four points, two rebounds and three steals. She also was perfect at the foul line, going 4-for-4.
In all, the Hawkeyes shot 35-for-70 (50 percent) from the field, only 7-for-24 (29.4 percent) from the 3-point line and 21-for-28 (77 percent) from the free throw line. They outrebounded the Ramblers 51-27, outscored them in the paint 56-24 and dominated in second-chance points 14-1.
“We’re always a work in progress,” said head coach Lisa Bluder. “We had a different lineup again tonight so we are just gonna try to keep getting better every day. I feel like we are good right now, but we could get a lot better.”
No. 4 Iowa (12-1, 1-0) will take on Minnesota (11-1, 1-0) on Dec. 30 at 1:00 p.m. CST.