Clark, Czinano lead Iowa past Illinois State 95-58 in NCAA
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The sound of Caitlin Clark hitting the floor and the sight of her limping when she got up was enough to quiet a sellout home crowd.
Clark, the nation’s leading scorer, alleviated any fears with a wave of the hand, dismissing any sort of a substitution.
"It’s all part of basketball," the Iowa sophomore guard said. "It’s all good."
Clark had 27 points and 10 assists and Monika Czinano added 18 points as Iowa defeated Illinois State 98-58 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game Friday.
Gabbie Marshall and Tomi Taiwo each had 13 points for the Hawkeyes (24-7), the No. 2 seed in the Greensboro Region. They’ll play No. 10 seed Creighton on Sunday in the second round.
Clark, an Associated Press first-team All-American who averages 27.4 points per game, had her 16th double-double of the season despite a 15-minute scoreless stretch in the second and third quarters. But she had six assists in the span during which Iowa extended its lead from nine points to 20.
With 7 1/2 minutes left in the third, Clark spun out of control trying to get out of a double team in the lane. She fell to the court and when she got up she limped trying to walk it off. Iowa coach Lisa Bluder started to send Kylie Feuerbach in to replace her, but Clark waved toward the bench that she was fine.
"It was my fault, I was out of control," Clark said. "I know Coach Bluder wants me to stay on my feet."
Bluder, sitting next to Clark, nodded enthusiastically.
Clark was 9 of 15 shooting, but her best contribution was getting Czinano involved in the game. The Redbirds were double-teaming the center, to start the game, and she didn’t get her first shot until 3:06 left in the second quarter.
But Czinano, who leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 67.8%, finished 6 of 6 from the field, with Clark assisting on five of them.
"Why are we not giving her more shots?" Bluder said, looking at the box score. "That’s what I want to know."
JuJu Redmond led 15th-seed Illinois State (19-14) with 25 points. Mary Crompton had 11.
"We knew we had a tall task at hand," Illinois State coach Kristen Gillespie said. "They had a few more weapons than we had."
Bluder predicted Thursday that the Hawkeyes would have some opening jitters, and it looked that way. Illinois State took an early 7-2 lead and Iowa missed five of its first six shots. But the Hawkeyes settled in and were up 43-29 at halftime.
It was a good start for the Hawkeyes, who have made it to the second weekend in the last two NCAA tournaments.
"I think it was huge for us," Czinano said. "I think it just built confidence for everyone."
As the players were leaving the postgame news conference and Bluder started to answer a question, there was a loud crashing noise in the back of the room, followed by Clark laughing.
"That was just Caitlin tripping again," Bluder said.
It was the ninth game of 90 or more points for the Hawkeyes, who are second in the nation in scoring at 84.5 points per game.
The game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 14,382 — the second consecutive sellout for the Hawkeyes, including the win over Michigan on Feb. 27 when they clinched a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
"Our fans are the best," Clark said.
"They braved parking problems today," Bluder said. "They braved rain. And they got here."
BACK HOME AGAIN
Crompton grew up in Iowa City, graduating from Regina High School.
Crompton and fellow Illinois State players Lexy Koudelka and Lexi Boles, all Iowa natives, were AAU teammates with Clark. Boles played with Clark at Dowling High School in West Des Moines.
Iowa: No 15-seed had beaten a 2-seed coming into this tournament, and the Hawkeyes made sure that didn’t happen. Now they get Creighton, which they played in a closed preseason scrimmage last fall. "Neither one of us have too many secrets," Bluder said.
Illinois State: The Redbirds rallied to get to the tournament after winning three games in three days to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship. It was their first NCAA appearance since 2008.
Illinois State: Season over.
Iowa: Hosts Creighton on Sunday.