IOWA CITY — On a day the nation's leading scorer struggled to shoot, Caitlin Clark still found a way to achieve a career milestone on Tuesday for the Iowa women's basketball team.
Despite missing 12 of 15 shots from the field while being held to 13 points, less than half of her 29.8-per-game scoring average, Clark recorded her first career triple-double for the Hawkeyes in a 92-65 win over Western Illinois. The freshman product from West Des Moines grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds and dished out 10 assists, finding Logan Cook for a lay-up with five minutes left to clinch the triple-double before taking a seat on the Iowa bench.
"I knew I was close, but I didn't know how close. Because I wasn't shooting the ball very well, my mentality in the fourth quarter was to get other teammates shots and get their confidence going," Clark said. "Everyone has off nights. I think it was just that. I've been shooting a lot. It happens. It was frustrating because those are shots that I normally make, but I kind of accepted it wasn't my day. Getting teammates involved became my mentality."
Clark's triple-double was just part of several career highs achieved in a total team effort for Iowa in the team's return to the court after an unexpected 10-day layoff. Megan Meyer matched Clark, coming off the bench to score a career-high 13 points while Sharon Goodman added a career-best 12 point and nine rebounds to widen the gap for the Hawkeyes in the paint with Iowa outscoring Western Illinois 52-24 inside in the game.
Gabbie Marshall adde
"That's something we're going to need down the road. We need solid play off the bench," Clark said. "It speaks a lot to all those girls as players. They showed all the coaches and showed everyone just how good they are."
d a career-high six steals while adding 11 points, giving Iowa six different players that scored in double figures against the Leathernecks. Monika Czinano took her turn for the first time this season to lead the Hawkeyes in scoring, pouring in 19 points in just 21 minutes.
Iowa's bench helped provide early energy after a stagnant start from the field. Logan Cook came off the bench, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds in the final five minutes of the first quarter while Meyer set up Clark's only field goal of the opening quarter, a go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the key that put the Hawkeyes ahead 18-16.
"You prepare all week and prepare throughout the preseason for this," said Cook after scoring a career-high 12 points. "The more experience we get on the court, the more comfortable we get playing out there. You just need to stay ready, have a lot of confidence when you go in and do the best you can."
Meyer would score eight points in the second quarter, leading the Hawkeyes into the half with a 41-29 lead. Meyer hit all three shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, as Iowa forced the Leathernecks into 14 turnovers in the first half, turning the mistakes into 15 points.
Goodman helped widen the gap in the post for the Hawkeyes, scoring six points while grabbing five rebounds off the bench in the third quarter. Goodman and Czinano each finished the third quarter scoring in double figures for the Hawkeyes, who opened a 68-46 lead heading into the fourth quarter, holding the Leathernecks without a field goal over the final three minutes of the third.
"Sharon is a really good rebounder. It's either her or Kate Martin in practice that lead us in rebounds," Iowa head women's college basketball coach Lisa Bluder said. "This is a big adjustment for Sharon. Monika has done a great job helping her adjust. I'm looking forward to continuing to see her development. The sky is the limit for her."
Iowa (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) shook off a slow start that including five straight misses from the field in the opening two minutes. Grace Gilmore led Western Illinois (1-7) with 15 points including the first seven Leatherneck points of the second half.
"We were a little rusty, which is to be expected when you haven't played for several days," Bluder said. "The last time we had a triple-double, it was a first-round draft pick in Sam Logic back in 2015. They don't happen very often, so for Caitlin to find other ways to contribute for us is great."
The Hawkeyes bounced back after dropping their first game of the season, falling 86-82 at Michigan State on Dec. 12. Iowa's scheduled Big Ten game at Ohio State this past Saturday was postponed due to an increase of positive coronavirus tests within the Buckeye program.
Iowa returns to Big Ten play at home next week against Rutgers next Thursday, Jan. 31, marking the second straight year the Hawkeyes have hosted a conference game on New Year's Eve. Iowa closed out 2019 with a 108-72 win over Illinois at Carver Hawkeye Arena last season.
"We've got 18 Big Ten games coming up between now and March," Bluder said. "I think we're as prepared as we can be given all the situations we've had. We'll be ready to go Dec. 31 against Rutgers to get it started."