With the No. 6 Michigan women’s basketball team hoping to make a late push down by eight in the third quarter, Iowa guard Caitlin Clark hit a deep 3-point shot extending the Hawkeyes’ lead to 11 with 5:03 left in the quarter. This would be the closest the Wolverines would get the rest of the way, as Clark’s 3-pointer sparked an Iowa surge to help seal the victory, giving the Hawkeyes a share of the Big Ten title.
The Wolverines’ defense struggled to find consistency after a strong start to the game. As such, Michigan could not hold off Iowa’s 3-point attack, as the Hawkeyes shot 16-of-29 from deep.
“Iowa played unbelievable,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “They made 16 threes. I think it’s hard to counter (that).”
It appeared as if the Wolverines were going to have a strong defensive performance after the first quarter.
In the first eight minutes of the game, Michigan held the Hawkeyes to just 12 points on 33% shooting. The Wolverines secured defensive rebounds to help negate second chance points early.
As a result of the strong interior defense, Iowa began to attack from beyond the arc, hitting two 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the first.
With all of the defensive attention on Clark, other players began to thrive. . Down by two with 3:36 the second quarter, Michigan expected the shot to come from Clark – putting two defenders on her. As a result of the double team, Clark passed the ball to a wide open Hawkeyes forward Addison O’Grady who hit an easy jumper. This would become the theme of the quarter, as Clark finished with four assists in the second.
After that, the remainder of the second quarter was all Iowa, which shot13-of-18 from the field and hit eight of its last nine attempts in the first half. Michigan failed to keep up with the pace shooting a poor 26.7% from the field.
“I think some of our shot selection led to some transition for them,” Barnes Arico said. “They were able to get some fast break points and that really ignited them and they started to get going. They started to make some threes and their confidence got going a little bit in the second quarter.”
The late surge at the end of the first half put the Wolverines defense on skates. Senior forward Naz Hillmon struggled defensively in the first half, posting a team-low minus-14 in the first half. Though that burden doesn’t fall entirely on her, though, as her usage constantly put her under the fire from Iowa’s red-hot offense.
Coming out of halftime, Michigan regained its some defensive composure in the second half, holding Iowa scoreless for its first two minutes. The strong defense would provide opportunities on offense.
After hitting a few shots, the Wolverines would cut the lead down to eight two times in the third quarter. But each time it was hoping to make a stop, Clark would ruin it dreams, hitting four 3-pointers in the third quarter alone — negating Michigan’s scoring.
Later on, Clark hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Iowa up 14 with 1:11 remaining in the third.
“I felt like we were in pretty good shape when we got it to eight,” Barnes Arico said. “We came out the third quarter playing really well and then the back end of the second, the back end of the third really hurt us. We would trade in threes for twos or missed shots for threes. It was really tough to counter that.”
Clark’s strong third quarter put the Hawkeyes up 17 going into the fourth. Michigan hoped to keep the game competitive, but Iowa thought differently scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter on a ridiculous 80% shooting. Offering a change of pace, Clark did not make a single shot attempt in the fourth and instead relied on her passing to create offense.
But that highlighted just how lethal the Hawkeyes’ offense was, and how powerless the Wolverines were to stop it — whether Clark drained 3-pointers or found her teammates, Iowa fired on all cylinders, scoring a whopping 104 points.